By: Kevin Onishi, Community Engagement Specialist, Keiro
Growing up, and even still to this day, Halloween has always been about the costumes. I remember as a kid, my mom would make these elaborate costumes ranging from a Nintendo GameBoy one year to a LEGO Brick the next. My streak of creative and clever costumes didn’t end there. Every year at the beginning of October, I put on my ‘thinking cap’ (surprisingly not one of my costume ideas…) to try to come up with the most creative and clever costume. To me, Halloween was never about the candy. Looking back I guess you could say it’s also because of my mom, since she would always bag up a very generous percentage of my haul so my dad could bring it to work. Now my friends on the other hand, to them Halloween was always about the candy. Do I blame them? No, of course not. We were at an innocent age where diabetic consequences weren’t even comprehendible. Candy and all of its artificial sweeteners represented something more at the time, and no matter how many times our teachers would attempt to educate us on the negative effects of candy consumption, it would go in one ear and out the other.
While I still do believe in the importance of developing a healthy lifestyle at a young age, children do not always have the capability to think ‘long term’ and thus need someone to make the hard decisions for them. That is where we as a community can step in and help. In 2014, the Food and Allergy Research & Education launched a campaign known as the Teal Pumpkin Project where participants display teal-painted pumpkins in front of their homes. While the Teal Pumpkin Project was originally started to address growing concerns of food allergies that correlate with Halloween candy, the project has been widely hailed as a positive approach towards childhood obesity as well. By displaying a Teal Pumpkin, you are signaling to parents and children that you will be handing out non-food treats to trick-or-treaters. Examples of such treats include glow sticks, pens, pencils, coins, stickers, etc. As it was originally created to be make Halloween an inclusive time for children with food allergies, these non-food items provided comfort to both the child and their parent knowing they wouldn’t have to worry about what ingredients the candy contained.
Choosing to hand out small trinkets versus small packets of sugar can help change the way our youth view the consumption of an unnecessary large amount of candy during this time. When you look at the numbers across the board, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2012.1 I know this information is beat over our heads by every media outlet, but childhood obesity is important to us because of the many health implications that can result from it. Diabetes, higher risk for different types of cancers, and even lower self-esteem can all result from childhood obesity. I know this might be an unpopular decision and might even lead you to owning the title of ‘Worst House on the Block’, but unlike Halloween, we can’t live in a fantasy world when it comes to childhood obesity.
About the Author:
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