MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Youngsters with food sensitivities and allergies had a special kind of fun Saturday at a trunk-or-trick event designed to help them enjoy safe Halloween treats.
The second annual Teal Pumpkin Project event was sponsored by the Pikeside Learning Center’s Parent-Teacher Organization, group President Becky Sykes said.
Students, siblings, family members and residents took part in the offerings, which included nonfood treats.
She was one of several people handing out everything from pencils to temporary tattoos, and no one seemed to miss the candy or other sugary items.
Food sensitivities are a real issue, Sykes said.
“A lot of my son’s friends do have food allergies such as dairy sensitivity, and being allergic to nuts, whether peanuts or tree nuts, is another big one,” she said. “So we wanted to do something for Halloween that was fun for the kids and worry-free for the parents.”
Principal Antoinette Funk smiled as children in costumes moved around the parking lot while noting that staff members were happy to be part of the fun.
Pikeside has eight pre-kingergarten classrooms, and attracts students ages 3 to 5 from across Berkeley County, W.Va., she said.
“We do take this seriously. Allergies are becoming more and more prevalent, so this is a safe environment for all of our kids, no matter what their food allergy or medical issue might be,” she said.
Parents typically provide that type of information to school officials, and that is important for everything for food-service meals or even when treats are provided for parties or other special occasions, Funk said.
Peanut butter, dairy and gluten are the most common allergies, she said, noting that the school district doesn’t serve any nut-based items.
Diabetic students also have specific needs, and the goal is “to accommodate all students, and we can make the necessary adjustments as long as we are notified,” Funk said.
Mill Creek Intermediate Principal Beth McCoy said she has learned a lot since her daughter was diagnosed with diabetes as a youngster.
Although her daughter now is in high school, there still are dietary concerns, and it takes a lot to incorporate them into daily life, she said.
It is not much different in school classrooms, where nurses help meet diabetic students’ needs, she said.
“It takes a whole village to care for these youngsters, and we are all happy to be part of that effort,” she said.