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The great candy debate

Bean PumpkinIt seems like there’s a lot of creative finaigling this year, surrounding Halloween and the impending glut of sweets. I’ve heard about a neighborhood in Cambridge that’s planning to give out toys instead of candy to trick-or-treaters this year. I read about more than one dentist who is offering a candy buy-back program at $1/pound!

In our last store newsletter, we asked parents for tips about trick or treating with kids, and every response involved clever ways of separating kids from their candy. Universally, parents seem to agree that an extended union between kids and candy is a bad idea. But is it right to put the kibosh on the long-standing tradition of collecting oodles of sweets once a year?

How long standing is that tradition, anyway? According to Wikipedia, trick or treating came about in the early 1930s, and was widely publicized by the media in the 1940s. By the 1950s, it was officially popular culture, and Disney even released a cartoon about it. In 2005, the National Confectioners Association reported that 80% of adults in the USA were planning to give candy to trick-or-treaters, and 93% of American children were planning to go trick-or-treating.

But while tradition shouldn’t be overlooked, it’s also relevant to look at the trends in childhood obesity rates, which have almost quadrupled since the 1960s. So it’s reasonable that parents are concerned.
I’ve never really celebrated Halloween, so I’m not in a position to offer too many words of wisdom. But as a bystander, it seems like the trick isn’t in eliminating the treats altogether. Rather, setting consumption limits and/or creating incentives to get rid of the leftovers seems like it would be more successful.

What do you think?

3 comments

  1. My problem is not the 3 1/2 year old kid eating the candy, it’s me!!! But thank you for bringing up this topic.

    Our daughter is content — no thrilled — with one tiny treat per night (starting at age 3, typically a softish hard candy about 1/5 the size of a regular one, and then tooth brushing immediately afterwards). But for the last two years, her adorableness on Halloween has ensured that we’ve been showered with tempting nibbles that she couldn’t eat anyway (chocolate being mostly off limits due to inducing child craziness). Who eats it? Mama and Papa. And thus begins the holiday weight gain…

    I love the idea of exchanging the candy for toys, but then what do you do with the candy? In our house, it seems to all end up at church coffee hour the next week. I’m glad you’ll be doing a collection at Magic Beans.

    At any rate, right now the idea of Halloween, the dressing up in a costume, doing the Spooky Ghost impression, and the carving of Jack o’ Lanterns and making of pumpkin seeds and actual act of trick or treating is much more exciting for all of us than the candy. Although pouring out that bag and looking at all the bounty is such fun. Right now, she’s been trained to know that it will soon be whisked away.

    My mom made attempts in my youth to give out homemade cookies, apples and other healthy things to kids she knew on Halloween. Another neighbor gave out pennies, which was a much bigger hit. Giving out child-sized toothbrushes is also a good idea (but not if everyone does it).

    We have much bigger problems than Halloween in fighting childhood obesity and diabetes, such as junk food and soda in schools, advertising geared towards kids, fewer safe playgrounds in poor neighborhoods (where childhood obesity and diabetes and asthma are rampant), and poor air quality.

    I’d probably feel a bit different if my kid were at an unhealthy weight, inactive, or had other health issues. Luckily she does not, so a mini Halloween sweets orgy is OK with us. Last year it was a really important night of meeting new neighbors in a neighborhood where in previous years many people pretended they weren’t home. An active trick or treating street is a sign of a healthy neighborhood, even if the sweets aren’t healthy!

  2. Hurrah for Magic Beans for coming up with a brilliant solution for how to deal with the glut of Halloween candy. After a fruitful evening of trick-or-treating, my daughter spread out her vast collection of candy, carefully counted out her alloted take, and then bagged the remainder. Today after school she merrily took her bounty to MBeans to exchange for a long coveted Groovy Girl. Happy kid, happy parent. Thanks Sheri!!

  3. Hurrah for Magic Beans for coming up with a brilliant solution for how to deal with the glut of Halloween candy. After a fruitful evening of trick-or-treating, my daughter spread out her vast collection of candy, carefully counted out her alloted take, and then bagged the remainder. Today after school she merrily took her bounty to MBeans to exchange for a long coveted Groovy Girl. Happy kid, happy parent. Thanks Sheri!!

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