Cash For Halloween Candy? Dentists' Buyback Program Is Booming

Cash For Halloween Candy? Dentists' Buyback Program Is Booming

11:04am Nov 04, 2014
Dr. Curtis Chan, a dentist in Del Mar, Calif., loads up a truck with 5,456 pounds of candy to deliver to Operation Gratitude during the Halloween Candy Buyback on Nov. 8 last year. Chan personally collected 3,542 pounds of candy from patients.
Dr. Curtis Chan, a dentist in Del Mar, Calif., loads up a truck with 5,456 pounds of candy to deliver to Operation Gratitude during the Halloween Candy Buyback on Nov. 8 last year. Chan personally collected 3,542 pounds of candy from patients.
Courtesy of Curtis Chan
  • Dr. Curtis Chan, a dentist in Del Mar, Calif., loads up a truck with 5,456 pounds of candy to deliver to Operation Gratitude during the Halloween Candy Buyback on Nov. 8 last year. Chan personally collected 3,542 pounds of candy from patients.

    Dr. Curtis Chan, a dentist in Del Mar, Calif., loads up a truck with 5,456 pounds of candy to deliver to Operation Gratitude during the Halloween Candy Buyback on Nov. 8 last year. Chan personally collected 3,542 pounds of candy from patients.

    Courtesy of Curtis Chan

  • Troops in Afghanistan pass out candy that was collected by dentists in the buyback program and shipped by Operation Gratitude.

    Troops in Afghanistan pass out candy that was collected by dentists in the buyback program and shipped by Operation Gratitude.

    Courtesy of Operation Gratitude

If your little ghosts and goblins dump their candy on the living room floor tonight, go ahead: Let them at it. They can sort, then trade, and gorge on their favorites.

But if you're like many parents, by tomorrow morning you may want to get rid of some of this candy glut.

One possible solution? Check out the Halloween Candy Buyback program, which was founded by dentist Chris Kammer in Wisconsin. Kammer's office offers $1 a pound to buy back candy collected by the young trick-or-treaters in his practice.

Troops in Afghanistan pass out candy that was collected by dentists in the buyback program and shipped by Operation Gratitude.

Troops in Afghanistan pass out candy that was collected by dentists in the buyback program and shipped by Operation Gratitude.

Courtesy of Operation Gratitude

Think of it as cash for candy. And the idea is catching on.

This year, more than 2,500 dentists and orthodontists have signed up to participate. (There's a zip code locator, if you want to find a dentist near you.) By comparison, about 300 dentists participated in 2007, the first year the program expanded nationally.

And where does all this candy end up? It's shipped to U.S. troops overseas, as part of Operation Gratitude care packages.

Kammer says he started the program when he realized that, for many kids, the treat-eating season dragged on for weeks.

No child needs to have a shopping bag full of candy, Kammer argues. "The thought of that makes me shudder."

When he started experimenting with the idea of the candy buyback years ago, his own children were not big fans. "They said, 'Dad, that's a terrible idea,' " he says.

But after the first year, his family realized that he was not the Halloween grinch. The buyback was a hit in his local community: Kids got to eat and keep some of their surplus, but families were happy to drop off their excess and share it with the troops.

"And I decided, wow, this could be the [dentistry profession's] national response to Halloween," Kammer says.

Operation Gratitude has shipped more than a million care packages, including items such as DVDs, games and personal grooming products, to troops overseas. Halloween candy is a nice addition, says the group's founder, Carolyn Blashek.

"It's a great morale boost for the troops; it reminds them of home," Blashek says. "But more importantly, to me, this provides the opportunity for every American child to say thank-you to the military."

And this year, there may be even more candy out there to buy back. U.S. candy makers are expecting sales to be up 1.8 percent over last year, with Americans spending an estimated $2.5 billion on Halloween treats.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

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. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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