RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
If you'll be dressing up a tiny ghost or goblin to trick-or-treat tonight, you will be faced with a problem later - a glut of candy typically dumped on the living room floor or tucked away in a pillow case. NPR's Allison Aubrey reports on one possible solution to that problem, compliments of America's dentists.
ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Halloween is supposed to be scary and mysterious -
(SOUNDBITE OF GHOST AND GOBLIN MUSIC)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Singing) They're fine.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Singing) Danny, they're gone.
AUBREY: - The night of the wandering dead.
(SOUNDBITE OF GHOST AND GOBLIN MUSIC)
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) Beware, beware, beware, beware, beware.
AUBREY: But for most kids, this is what it's really about.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Say trick-or-treat.
UNIDENTIFIED TRICK-OR-TREATERS: Trick-or-treat.
AUBREY: It's about the candy. Lots of us remember digging through our little plastic jack-o'-lanterns and gorging on Halloween night. I would treat anything to get my hands on more Almond Joys. But the problem, as Chris Kammer, a dentist in Wisconsin sees it, is that for lots of kids, the candy gorging can go on for weeks.
CHRIS KAMMER: If you think about it, a young child sitting with a shopping bag full of candy, they eat a - some of their favorites. Then they start eating the things they don't even like just because it's there. The thought of that - it just makes me shudder.
AUBREY: So several years back he had an idea. What if his dental practice offered to buy back Halloween candy from his young patients? Think of it as cash for candy. Kammer says he ran the concept by his own children.
KAMMER: When I first started telling my kids that yeah, here's what we're going to do. We're going to buy kids candy back for a dollar a pound. And they looked at me and they said dad, that's a terrible idea.
AUBREY: But Kammer decided to go ahead with it anyway. And to his surprise, he was not seen as the Halloween grinch. It was a hit. Kids got some candy on Halloween night and families were happy to drop off their excess at his dental office.
KAMMER: The first year we had done it, there was so much excitement about it. I mean, they were talking about it all over the state of Wisconsin. And then it was at that time I decided, wow, this could be the national response to Halloween.
AUBREY: There are now nearly 3,000 dentists signed up for the Halloween Candy Buyback program. And what do they do with all of this candy?
CAROLYN BLASHEK: The dentists send the candy to us at Operation Gratitude here in Southern California and then we include it in our care packages that we send to U.S. military who are deployed overseas.
AUBREY: That's Carolyn Blashek, the founder of Operation Gratitude, which has sent over a million care packages filled with things like DVDs, games and personal grooming products to U.S. troops. She says adding the Halloween candy is a nice complement.
BLASHEK: Well, it's a great morale boost for the troops. It reminds them of home. It reminds them of the great traditions that we celebrate here. But most importantly to me, this provides an opportunity for every American child to say thank-you to the military.
AUBREY: Last year, Blashek collected about 250,000 pounds of candy to share. But with so many new dentists signed up...
BLASHEK: We expect to get a whole lot more - probably about 300,000 pounds.
AUBREY: Wow, 300,000 pounds - what does that look like stacked up in a big room?
BLASHEK: It's pretty extraordinary. It's many, many, many semi-truckloads full.
AUBREY: So in trying to save kids from eating too much sugar at Halloween, could we be promoting tooth decay in our troops by participating? Blashek says absolutely not.
BLASHEK: We also send toothbrushes and toothpaste along with the candies.
AUBREY: And she says each service member gets only a few pieces. Allison Aubrey, NPR News.
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