Grudgingly Spending Money on Halloween Candy? Here are Some Candy-Free Alternatives

Few kids suffer from a shortage of candy at Halloween, but lots of Mesa County kids suffer from food insecurity year 'round.

Few kids suffer from a shortage of candy at Halloween, but lots of Mesa County kids suffer from food insecurity year ’round.

Many people think Halloween means handing out candy, candy and more candy. But desperate attempts by local dental offices to reduce the harm candy poses by buying back Halloween sweets by the pound, combined with sharp increases in childhood obesity, diabetes and dangerous nut allergies are all making many people re-think the Halloween candy-fest, and rightly so.

There ARE many items people can hand out on Halloween that are healthier, safer, more useful and even more fun for kids, and that cost about the same as candy.

It Turns Out Kids Love Alternatives

For several years at our house, we did an experiment. We offered trick-or-treaters two different bowls of goodies to choose from. One contained “good” candy, like Hershey bars and Snickers, and the other contained small, party favor-like toys like rubber spiders, Mardi Gras-style necklaces, glow sticks, toy trucks, etc. It turned out the kids took the toys over the candy by about a 3 to 1 ratio. The party items cost about as much as candy, too. You can find them in the party sections of big box stores like Wal Mart, K-Mart and Target, and there are lots of similar fun little items at dollar stores around the valley. Several kids in our family have diabetes, and one has a severe peanut allergy, so knowing the dangers candy can pose to some kids, we decided to stay on the safe side this year and just offer toys instead. The kids seem to love it.

The NextDoor network, a free online social network that allows neighbors to share information, revealed that one of our neighbors did a similar test and offered mechanical pencils to kids alongside candy. They found the kids greatly preferred the mechanical pencils. This opens up a whole area of fun and helpful non-candy items you can hand out: school supplies like brightly-colored Post-It™ notes, small packs of crayons, fun pens and pencils, colored markers, etc. Many of these items can be found very cheaply at local dollar stores.


Use Halloween to Help Hungry Kids

Some holidays, like Christmas and Thanksgiving, highlight the plight of the less fortunate and encourage a spirit of giving. Poverty is a huge issue Mesa County. Why not use Halloween as an opportunity to encourage kids to think about others who are less fortunate?

For several years on Halloween we’d go over to my elderly mom’s house and help her with trick or treaters. While were were gone, instead of darkening our own house, we left all the porch lights on and taped a huge note to the front door that said,

“Kids: This year we took all our candy money and gave it to Kids Aid, the organization that hands out over 1,800 backpacks full of food to low income District 51 kids, so they have food to eat over the weekends.”

In our note, we asked kids and their parents to consider donating to Kids Aid too, and we left a big bowl of slips with contact information for Kids Aid (printed off the Internet) on the doorstep. When we got home, all of the info slips were gone, and there was no vandalism to the house. We hoped that by doing what we did, we helped get Kids Aid a few more donations, and made local kids aware of the extent of hunger right here in Mesa County. If you’re interested in using Halloween to help hungry kids right here in our own backyard, here is a link to information about Kids Aid’s backpack program:…

These are just a few alternatives to dishing out candy that we’ve tried that have worked very well. Donating your candy money to Kids Aid and telling kids you’ve done so is not only a tremendously helpful thing to do for Mesa County kids who are hungry, but it’s also a great alternative for elderly and disabled people who would rather not have to jump up and answer the door 50 times next weekend (because that’s how many trick or treaters we usually get at our house!)

Either way, we wish you a safe, happy and helpful Halloween!

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