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Halloween Controversy: better to feed candy to the homeless? or nothing?

By Robyn Openshaw, MSW | Oct 16, 2011

Last year on Halloween, I posted that I pay my kids $20 for the privilege of dumping their Halloween candy in the trash outside. On facebook, I have the interesting situation of 90% of my personal page’s friends being GSG readers, and 10% being people I actually know. One of my high-school friends, cheerleader Beth, who has no idea who I am 25 years later, protested:   “Awww, don’t throw the candy away, give it to the homeless!”

A few of my more vociferous readers pounced on her. She had no idea what she’d gotten herself into, poor girl. She wasn’t on the GSG page with 13,000 people who know exactly what we’re all doing there.

She was on the Robyn Openshaw page—for all she knew, I was that girl she left the high-school campus with, at lunch, to get 7-11 Nachos and a Diet Coke.

When I was at CHI spending 16+ hours per day with the same 15 people, only one heated argument broke out. It was on this topic: “Is it wasting food, to throw away candy?” A mother, Esther, and her two adult daughters, Kendra and Melinda, had apparently been “going the rounds” on this subject.

I inadvertently stepped on that land mine when I said, “I don’t want to poison my own kids–why would I want to poison homeless people?” KABLAM, the room instantly divided into two camps.

You know without even thinking what the response will be: “But homeless people don’t get enough to eat! It’s not like homeless kids are eating salad anyway, or have any options! Who cares what their nutrition is—they’re just trying to survive.”

I opt out of those conversations at that point, because they’re a little contentious. But if you ASKED me, I’d say that generally in America, the homeless are not in jeopardy of having a choice between going hungry versus eating candy.

Actually, I could go on all day with my more indirect arguments to that line of reasoning. (If I thought anybody cared.) Okay, just a little academic argument here, acknowledging right up front that I know the homeless aren’t academic—they’re real people, trying to survive. I get it.

But for instance, did you know that the #1 factor related to longevity is LOW-CALORIE DIET? Yep, when people are calorie-suppressed for many, many years, they live a long time! Really thin people have minimal disease risk. Whenever I say this, I just about get strung up from the nearest tree. Check out my report on what the weight charts should REALLY be–this is John McDougall’s stuff, okay? Not mine. But it’s interesting and (sorry!) really valid:


I realize it’s not politically correct to advocate for extreme thinness! I am just making an observation: the low end of our weight charts are the UPPER end of the weights of cultures who have impressive longevity.

My points are, related to whether we give the Halloween candy to the “less fortunate” families/kids, or do the whole world a favor by throwing it away:

  1. Kids who eat candy are HUNGRIER as a result. Sugar just fuels food obsession and cravings. So you fill their belly with fun-sized Snickers. Guess what: they then want MORE of it, not just in two hours, but the next day, and the next day, and the next. They are little addicts. Poor kids are America’s fattest kids. Sure, the poorest among us are the most addicted–but is it my job to feed the addictions?
  2. IS IT REALLY better to give them candy, than nothing? Pretty sure going without—(within reason, of course, I’m aware we do have to eat SOMETIME)—would be better. Less comfortable, but much healthier.
  3. It’s a matter of principle for me. I’m just not going to feed people toxic fuel. It goes against everything I believe in. It was HARD for me, at first, to throw candy away. I compost everything, for crying out loud! I grow my own food! I buy very little stuff in boxes and cans! BUT. If it’s poison for my kid (and it is!), it’s poison for everyone. Bottom line: I feel more guilty feeding someone else’s child candy than I do throwing out “perfectly good food.” Read about 1,000 books on the nutritional-deficiency health crisis in America as I have, and you will never look at candy the same way again. You will not see it as “food.”

I think I will make a new rule for myself, in honor of the reflecting I’ve done writing this blog entry.   From now on, for every $20 I pay my child to throw his candy away, I will also donate $20 (or more) to our homeless shelter, earmarked for raw plant foods. In fact, maybe I will come up with a fund to start making sure they have leafy green salads, and veggies and fruits at the shelters here.   Hmmmm, I’m glad I wrote this blog…..now I’m thinking about a plan……

Posted in: Nutrition, Parenting, Standard American Diet

19 thoughts on “Halloween Controversy: better to feed candy to the homeless? or nothing?”

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Robyn,

    I waned to know your opinion about my mom with Lupus. She has had it since she was 14. She went on to have 4 children and has done better than her Dr.’s thought she would. But she has taken Perdnizone her whole life. Her Lupus has attacked her Kidneys, but they are okay now. Now she is dealing with a brain mass, she has had for a year. She has been on Chemo therapy for the last year. She recently got very sick again and now has stroke symptoms and can not walk, talk, or do much for herself. Would raw food help her or do you think it is to late? It just makes me sad that that I wasn’t able to talk her into this sooner…she is now on 1000 mg through IV of prednizone on her bad days. My sister is still bringing my mom diet pepsi’s. She is at a Rehabilitation center now trying to learn to walk and talk again….they are feeding her the most awful food.What should I do, any ideas would help?

    I saw the video with Lupus girl goes raw and I just keep thinking I should email you…couldn’t find an email address so I hope you don’t mind that this has nothing to do with your post.

    1. Robyn Openshaw, MSW says:

      Anonymous, I don’t think it’s ‘too late” for anyone. However, the decision has to come from the person who will eat the food. I’ve noticed that it never works if it’s another person who wants the nutritional change—that’s hard for many of us to accept! So you can educate, and offer it, but your mom would have to be the one to want to make the change. Good luck to you!

  2. Hello,

    This is very nice blog. I like it. In future I would like to read more blog like this. Thank you so much.

  3. Why earmark the donations? Take each $20 (and related kid) to the store, buy the stuff, make up a big, big salad, and take it to the homeless shelter (or wherever it is you would take them), with advance warning, of course.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Do you give away something other than candy at Halloween?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Eating less is better for your body than filling it with junk- even when you are hungry. When I was a kid, my parents made some unwise financial decisions which made it so we couldn’t afford much in the way of food. What food there was around was usually sugary cereal and milk. Inspite of not eating very much and walking a lot, I still carried around extra weight (5’5” and about 150 lbs.) because of the bad “food” I was eating. I used to crave fresh fruit, but we couldn’t afford it.

    My husband, on the other hand, came from a well-off middle class background and had a never ending supply of fast food, dairy products meat, and sugary, starchy snacks. He put on more weight than I did (5’9” 250-ish lbs.) However, I have found that my body tends to be a lot more resilient than my husband’s. Once I left for college and starting buying my own food (no cafeteria plan; too expensive; I bought mostly whole grains, fruits, a little dairy, and meat very rarely), I dropped weight. I wasn’t eating as nutritiously as I am now, but it was an improvement.

    Over the course of 2 years or so, I dropped about twenty lbs. in college and have dropped some more since. My husband has spent about six years trying to lose weight on a high raw diet and is now down to about 200 lbs., but it is a huge struggle for him. He has tons of food sensitivities, absorption issues, and swollen, distended abdomen that he can’t get rid of. Even treating his thyroid with Armour thyroid didn’t do much. The problem is in his gut and we are working on some serious detoxification for him.

    People do not realize that when you’re talking about junk food vs. going hungry that anything is NOT better than nothing. They think that any negative effects from from eating junk are cancelled out by giving the body “fuel” to survive a little longer. Not true. You’re taking a hungry, malnourished body and creating more problems like blood sugar spikes, trans fats, and synthetic carcinogenic chemicals in dyes and preservatives, etc. In other words, you’re killing the body slowly and making it so that when the person can eat well, the body has a harder time recovering because of all the negative baggage you’ve added in. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  6. It is way cheaper to give them $20 than pay for fillings, too. You are absolutely right. Why would I donate poison to poor children for heaven’s sake!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I love your idea about getting healthy food into shelters, many people give shelters JUNK food…..boxed mac n cheese, cans of gross limp veggies. I have always thought that was SO sad!

    I too will be more proactive about giving away healthy food to the poor, instead of boxed, nutritionally deficient food. Reminds me of my fave movie ever…Nacho Libre, where the kids in the orphanage are given this weird slop every day and one of them asks ” Can’t we just have a salad or something?”…Why yes, yes you CAN!

  8. Anonymous says:

    How do you get your kids off of candy when their dad keeps bucket loads available for them at his place every other weekend? It’s so frustrating. Oh well. I can only do what I can do.

    Just a quick report from the Utah Health and Wellness retreat at Sundance this past weekend. It was awesome! We had Dr. Christopher’s son David who runs the school of natural healing come and talk and take us on a nature walk around Sundance and point out plants and herbs and their uses for healing. Real Foods Market, Ojavan products and doTerra essential oils and many others. One was called Liv International. They focus on alkaline green drinks. I was wondering what you know about them. It was a wonderful time and I’ve come home even more committed to living a healthier and happier life.

    I am so grateful for all the good people that are taking a stand against the SAD culture and helping change things for the better. There really are amazing people out there doing amazing things.You are one of them. Thank You.

    1. Robyn Openshaw, MSW says:

      oh, that’s a topic I write about on a regular basis….what to do about kids leaving for other places away from your home where there are buckets of candy….sigh. So glad it was a great retreat! I do know a bit about Liv. Lots of companies have good greens products! Some more expensive than others depending on the marketing vehicle. Take care Sue!

  9. Robyn, awesome post. I’ve cut most high fructose corn syrup from my diet (once in a while I miss something because I’m not 100% natural yet), and it’s amazing the difference. No “diet” anything either, because fake sugar is worse than HFCS, well, the same but different. I see homeless begging for money every day. I have seen people hand some of them food, and seen it returned. Poor fools. I have to hope they go somewhere every day for a balanced meal. No one should be eating candy, children, adults, with homes or without. Keep up the good work!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Wondering what you suggest giving to Trick or Treaters? Personally I hate Halloween, but my kids won’t let me not celebrate it. I don’t want to pass out candy but feel the need to give something. Any suggestions?

    1. Robyn Openshaw, MSW says:

      Pencils, necklaces, spider rings, temporary tattoos, Oriental Trading Company, in a treasure chest! Like what they used to have at my dentist’s office when i was a kid—we used to get so excited about picking out a cheap little thing after our checkups.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I’m with you guys! And I don’t give candy OUT for Halloween, either. I buy little halloween toys, trinkets, playdough, etc. All stuff that will probably break in a day or so, but I’d much rather hand that out.

    So, that being said, I have a question for y’all. My 6 year old daughter really wants to do girl scouts, which I’m fine with, except for selling the COOKIES! I hate the idea of sending her out to sell poison to others, and I myself won’t be buying them. Any thoughts?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Last year I took bags of apples from our apple tree and gave them out at our church’s trunk or treat. They were a great hit with most of the kids, some even coming back for more! Many teenagers ate them while walking around collecting more candy. I also took bags of apple to our local food bank–about 50 pounds worth. They were very grateful to receive them.

  13. Anonymous says:


  14. Anonymous says:

    Robyn–I actually worked in a food pantry for a while–and I can tell you that the homeless are sick to death (literally) of sugar. Because that’s all they can afford to eat! They spend the day fueling up on coffe with lots of fake cream and sugar, or soda (and okay, sometimes alcohol) and they are just starved for anything green. We always got lots of cakes doanted from the Safeway, and they would just sit on the tables while they people came back three and four times for the really cheap o iceberg lettuce witha few shreds of carrot salad. So you are absolutely right–and the homeless don’t want your candy, anyway.

  15. I was mentioning to someone who was suggesting I take my son to this Halloween thing and I kindly just said that I didn’t really want him to have all the candy. And she said that lots of people donate their candy to the Children’s Hospital. (ahhh) And she’s usually pretty conscious of healthy lifestyle so I said…but I really don’t want to give sick children candy either. And of course she agreed. Oh my!

  16. Anonymous says:

    The last time we made bag lunches for our local homeless shelter, we were told that the residents has such poor dental health that we could not include any fresh apples or carrots. Instead, they requested fruit cups or applesauce, 2 sandwiches: PBJ or a lunch meat sandwich, chips or cookies. Wow. Too bad we couldn’t send green smoothies.

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