The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

    Parent concerns lead to shortage of trick-or-treaters

    If you have extra candy left over post-Halloween, you’re not alone. As fears over COVID-19 subsided ahead of Halloween, new concerns over high inflation-driven candy prices and rainbow-colored fentanyl quickly replaced them, leading many Americans to adopt alternative takes on trick-or-treating, or to opt-out of the holiday entirely. 

    According to 23ABC Bakersfield, more than half of adult respondents in a recent survey said they wouldn’t be handing out candy this year, and one in four blamed inflation, which reached a 40-year high this year according to Some people simply didn’t have room in their budgets to participate, with candy prices up 13% over last year, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    Sonoma State students and other Rohnert Park residents seemed to also experience this phenomenon. Shannon Doyle, a second-year biology major, said, “I’m in a lot of Facebook groups for my local towns, including some back home. There were tons of people sharing how disappointed they were that they got very few or even no trick-or-treaters.”

    Jorge Romero, a third-year electrical engineering major, explained that Halloween landing on a Monday this year was another likely cause of the low turnout. Romero also pointed out the recent sightings of prowlers, clowns and mountain lions in the area could have impacted the trick-or-treating numbers too. 

    One resident of Rohnert Park’s D-Section took to Nextdoor, posting, “Where are all the trick-or-treaters?” 

    In anticipation of a possible lack of participants in this year’s trick-or-treat, some Nextdoor users created an online map ahead of time. The map allowed other locals to list their homes as viable trick-or-treat destinations, so parents could take their kids to neighborhoods with houses that had guaranteed sweets. 

    Recent months have also seen widespread media coverage of the fentanyl scare, which took the place of razor blades and needles as this year’s main parental fear about tampered-with Halloween candy. 

    According to NPR, the opioid has garnered massive attention since the Drug Enforcement Administration released a statement in August warning the public about brightly-colored fentanyl pills that resemble candy, now called, “rainbow fentanyl.” The SF Chronicle reported that data released by the federal government this year estimated that 108,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2021. And while the DEA warned that the colorful pills were intentionally created by drug cartels to appeal to children, many experts disagree. 

    In an article for KTVU FOX2 News, Daniel Ciccarone, a professor of addiction medicine and substance abuse expert at the University of California San Francisco, said, “There’s no one who is trying to addict our children accidentally or on purpose. The reality is that we have a lot of American adults who use fentanyl, some of whom are dying. But Halloween is going to be as safe as it’s ever been.”

      Candace Karren, a third-year criminology and criminal justice major agreed. “I have heard about the fentanyl scare, but I also heard there wasn’t much data to back it up,” she said. “We have had conversations about checking candy for years without much outcome.” Despite this, Carlos Calito, a third-year communications and media studies major, said, “This year, the local school districts sent out a PSA about fentanyl warnings, so I know a lot of people were cautious about trick-or-treating. In my area there was zero activity.” 

    In the NPR article, Dr. Ryan Marino, a medical toxicologist, emergency physician and addiction medicine specialist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center added that, “[Fentanyl] also seems to have become heavily politicized because this is a very tense election year with very intense partisan politics.” 

    Elliot McKrell, a third-year economics major, also sees the fentanyl coverage as a political move. “I think this Halloween candy craze is just fear mongering so people will want heavier security and have higher disdain towards border conditions,” he said. “It honestly could even be what Trump runs on in 2024 and the seeds are just being planted now.”

    Still, the narrative about fentanyl winding up in children’s candy this year was convincing enough to cause many parents to seek out what they viewed as safer alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating, most notably that of “trunk-or-treating.” This new variation involves decorating one’s car rather than one’s house, putting candy in the trunk, and getting together with only trusted friends and family in a safe location, taking kids from car to car to collect their sweets.

    Doyle voiced her support for the idea. “I think trunk-or-treating is a great alternative for those who are worried about all the dangers of today’s world,” she said. “It may be easier to stick on the safe side of keeping celebrations to just friends and neighbors.” Emma Parks, a third-year Hutchins liberal studies major, added, “It stills gives children the opportunity to get out of the house and socialize, as well as the independence from parents, as they normally watch from afar.” 

    Regardless of whether this year will prove to have been an anomaly in terms of the impact of inflation on candy sales and participation, it’s clear that fears over the dangers of traditional trick-or-treating, whether substantiated or not, will remain a staple of the American Halloween experience. 


    Many Rohnert Park residents took to social media to discuss the apparent decrease in trick-or-treaters this year from other years.

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