Food Allergy 101: Teal pumpkins and cool toys


What if my food allergy was a real, live person? And what if I could talk to him about what he's taught me over the years? Every Thursday, I get that chance...

I’m sitting in the coffee shop waiting for Mr. A., my food allergy, to arrive for our weekly talk. On the table in front of me sits a plastic teal pumpkin I just bought and a few bags of non-food treats.

I’m looking at one of the non-food treats — a glow necklace — when he arrives.

“A teal pumpkin?” Mr. A. blurts out when he approaches the table. “Did they run out of orange ones?”

“Just preparing for Halloween,” I say.

He laughs.

“Yeah right,” he says. “Kids with food allergies can’t do Trick-or-Treat.”

I begin to explain about FARE’s Teal Pumpkin Project®. He acts like he’s not listening, but I know he is. As I’m talking, he grabs the glow stick from the table and starts waving it in the air.

“Anyway, it doesn’t matter,” he says. “Teal pumpkins. Green pumpkins. Blue pumpkins. The kids still can’t eat most of the candy…. and that’s what Trick-or-Treat is all about, the candy.”

“A treat doesn’t have to be candy,” I say.

“Yes it does,” he insists. “That’s what Halloween is. It’s in the rules.”

“We are changing the rules,” I say. “And besides, kids like toys.”

He doesn’t answer me. He is too busy marveling at the glow stick. Suddenly, he notices the bag of other toys.

“Look at all these!” he says excitedly. “Is that a mini slinky? I haven’t seen one of these in years. May I have one?”

He begins to reach into the bag. I quickly pull it away.

“What do you say first?” I ask.

He pauses a second before muttering, “Please. Please. Please.”

“Nope.” I smile. “Pretend it’s Halloween and you’re knocking at my door…”

 JJ Vulopas is a senior at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. An advocate for young people, JJ has lived with food allergies his entire life. He is the author of the children's book, Land of Not. You can read his daily blog at Follow him on Instagram & Twitter @thelandofcan.