DAVENPORT, Iowa — This Halloween, you might see teal-colored pumpkins sitting outside your neighbor's home. This isn't just for decoration, but a way to signal food-allergic trick-or-treaters that there are goodies and trinkets other than food available.
It's part of an international food awareness campaign called the Teal Pumpkin Project, and it's one that Davenport resident Taylor Smith wholeheartedly supports.
"We do the Teal Pumpkin Project because of [my daughter]," Smith said. "She has egg allergies and it's in all sorts of candy. So being able to have other stuff besides candy at trick-or-treat is helpful for her to still be part of it."
Her three-year-old daughter Parker's favorite food is noodles and her favorite candy is Reece's Cups, but Smith says finding noodles without eggs is a struggle, let alone candy that Parker likes.
So when Halloween comes around, Smith is happy watching Parker grow excited, but then feels anxious knowing she'll have to stay vigilant the entire night.
"[Parker's] getting better at remembering to ask mom, 'Does this have eggs?'," Smith said. "But seeing her big sister snack on candies right away, you can see the look on her face — she's bummed."
And it's situations like these that the nonprofit Food Allergy Research and Education hopes to avoid entirely through the Teal Pumpkin Project.
"It's super simple," said FARE's Assistant Director of Training and Professional Programs, Tiffany Leon, "You place a teal pumpkin on your doorstep, which signals that in addition to candy, you're offering non-food trinkets or treats which are safe for all trick-or-treaters."
According to a 2019 study published in JAMA Network Open, more than 32 million Americans suffer from food allergies. That equates to about one in ten adults and one in 13 children.
That's why Smith's neighbor, Kate Mapes, also participates in the project. She has been handing out toys for years and says last year she started only handing out toys because they were so popular.
"So I've been doing that for quite a few years," Mapes said. "And actually in our neighborhood, the toys are really popular. "
And for Parker, Smith said her eyes light up whenever she sees a teal pumpkin.
"She gets excited. She gets to pick [through the toys and trinkets]."
And if you want to join in on the Teal Pumpkin Project, Leon says you can go to FARE's website to add your house to its map that shows every home that offers allergy-conscious treats or trinkets.
But she also says to be careful when buying toys because some contain trace amounts of food, like Play-Doh, which can contain wheat.
"Maybe offering something that is safe like stickers or stencils or glowsticks," Leon said. "I offered playing cards last year."