Each year, Halloween grows exponentially in my home. The number of houses my kids hit up for loot increases, the number of hours we stay out past bedtime increases, and my disgust for the massive piles of candy my kids hoard increases.
Times have changed since I was a kid in the seventies and eighties. I think my parents would have called anyone who used the Switch Witch a goody-goody or a hippie (neither one was a compliment in my house). They were worried about razor blades in apples and cyanide in Tylenol, not how much candy we gorged on Halloween night or during the weeks after. We were a house that proudly stocked Twinkies, HoHos and Ding Dongs.
Graduating from the plastic pumpkin to the pillowcase was a significant rite of passage in my childhood. It meant that I was old enough to trick-or-treat alone with friends in the small town in Kentucky where I grew up. It also meant that I had enough candy at the end of the night that I could eat one piece every day for the next year and still have some left over.
Since I parent in a different era, and I know that sugar causes inflammation in the body and behavioral problems in my already-over-active kids, I had to find a way to get them to give away most of their candy. We agreed to the kids keeping 20 pieces of candy from their bags, and giving the rest away.
For all the time and energy they spent examining and choosing the pieces to keep, you would think I asked them to write a dissertation on Mounds or Almond Joy (Almond Joy for the record). But at the end of the day, the candy leaves the house (after I inhale all the Twizzlers), we don’t fight about it, and everyone is happy.
But where do we take the candy? Normally, we give it to the kids’ music school. This year my son wanted to do a little research and find other options. Since I’m always looking for a way to teach my kids empathy and the importance of charity (it’s a struggle), I gladly helped him. He’s obsessed with all things military, so he stopped when we found Operation Gratitude, but I wanted to find a few more ideas. Check them out if your house has had more candy hangovers than you care to remember this week.
- Operation Gratitude sends over 150,000 care packages each year to, “New Recruits, Veterans, First Responders, Wounded Warriors, Care Givers and to individually named U.S. Service Members deployed overseas.” They have three ways that you can send them candy. You can mail it directly to them; you can locate a local dentist’s office that participates in the Halloween Candy Buyback Program; if you live near Van Nuys, California, you can hand-deliver your candy.
- Call your local food banks and homeless shelters to see if they’re accepting Halloween candy donations.
- If your city is lucky enough to have one (Denver is lucky enough to have two), take it to your local Ronald McDonald House. Their mission is to give families of children treated in area hospitals “a home away from home” and to support “community programs that serve the needs of children.”
- Does your kids’ school have a sister school that serves underprivileged children? See if you can share your kids’ candy with children at another school who might not have the opportunity to collect over 200 pieces of candy on Halloween.
- Check with your local chapter of Meals on Wheels or any assisted living and nursing homes near you. Your unwanted heaps of sugar could brighten an older person’s day, especially if it comes with a note from your kid.