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Food fright

Halloween can be a frightening time for parents with children who suffer from severe food allergies. Their child could inadvertently eat a candy treat that could cause a life-threatening allergic reaction.

The food-centered holiday also can be a major disappointment for children suffering from food allergies, since they often can’t eat — and in some severe cases even be around — the treats handed out from neighbors on Halloween.

The Lakes Area Food Allergy Support group has for the past six years hosted a food-free Halloween party for area children who suffer from food allergies. But this year the group is hosting a food-free party for all area families, a bowling Halloween party that benefits the support group.

The Halloween costume party is planned from 2-4 p.m. Sunday at Jack’s House in Brainerd. Cost is $12 per bowler or $32 per family (maximum four bowlers). The cost includes shoe rental and up to three games. Other activities will include face painting and arts and crafts. All ages are welcome to attend and wear costumes.

“It’s a fun event for the entire family. We’re hoping that some of our kids’ friends will come and anyone from the public,” said Kay Paulus,the support group facilitator. “The key message is that you don’t need a lot of food or candy to have fun.”

Paulus said the support group was started six years ago by two mothers who happened to meet by chance at a playground and discovered they both were dealing with food allergies in their children. They decided to send out fliers to local preschools and childcare centers, which is where Paulus learned about the group, and the group has grown steadily over the last several years.

Paulus said her three children collectively are allergic to eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and sunflower.

Paulus said the group meets every other month and is an opportunity for parents to share tips, like recipes or other information. The group also has a group e-mail list where parents can ask questions and share information.

Paulus said the group, which now includes about 20 area families, decided to host the party to raise awareness of food allergies in the community. She said there are other health issues, like obesity and diabetes, which is why this Halloween party can be good for children.

“A lot of holidays center around food,” said Paulus. “Halloween is centered around candy in particular and a lot of candy contains allergens. This is an event any kid can go to regardless of any dietary restrictions and be like other kids and not see other kids having stuff they can’t have. And kids love to dress up in their costumes and it’s another opportunity for them to wear their costumes.”

Paulus said the group’s members come from Brainerd-Baxter, but also Pequot Lakes, Crosslake, Pillager and Pierz. She said the group can help other food allergy support groups form their own group outside this geographic location.

Paulus said food allergies seem to be on the rise. She said a study released last summer indicated that one in 13 children under age 18 suffer from a food allergy.

“That’s a tremendous increase from five years ago,” said Paulus.

For more information on LAFAS, visit its website, or call 831-9146.

JODIE TWEED may be reached at or 855-5858.