In the United States, October 31st is a night of costumes and candy. Houses decorate for Halloween, households purchase bags of candy, and neighborhoods across America will be flooded with 41 million trick-or-treaters between ages 5 and 14 according to the US Census Bureau. Costumed children will joyously fill their coiffeurs with “Halloween gold.” Of course I’m talking about candy and at the center of the Halloween excitement is about $6.86 billion worth of purchased decorations, costumes and candy according to a 2011 survey by the National Retail Federation. The same survey estimates that the average American family spends $72.31 on these items and according to MSN Money, about 7 of 10 families will participate.
Many kids will come home with literally pounds of candy, and many parents will donate some of it to lesser fortunate people so they can have a sweet Halloween experience. In doing so, most people may not be thinking about the fact that many if not all the recipients might be at risk for tooth decay (a common cause of school absenteeism), obesity and food insecurity. It’s one of those times where trying to do something good isn’t a good idea, especially since 1 in 6 Americans are food insecure.
It’s important that we have fun holidays and Halloween is a great escape. But we may still be able to accomplish that by focusing some of our attention on creativity and community. I would like to suggest we rethink Halloween. Imagine what could happen if every American family currently spending $72.31 for Halloween spent, for example, 10% less on Halloween, and used the other 10% ($7.23) as a direct gift to Feeding America or their local food banks, or purchased cans of tuna, beans and other nutritious foods and gave those instead. We could make a $686 million dollar dent in food insecurity in the United States every year without costing anyone a single penny more – and turn Halloween into a sweet opportunity to fight hunger.
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