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Northwestern to host first peanut-free football game against Minnesota

Michele Corriston, Editor in chief

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Wildcats fans can tailgate with burgers and beer as usual Saturday, but they’ll need to leave peanut products at home. Northwestern will face Minnesota at Ryan Field’s first-ever Peanut Free Day — possibly the first time any college has held an allergy-conscious game day.

Peanuts will neither be sold nor permitted inside Ryan Field during the Family Weekend game. About 2 percent of Americans suffer from peanut allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

The city has thrown its support behind the effort, praising NU for making the stadium safe for spectators with allergies.

“The Evanston Health Department applauds Northwestern University’s efforts to create a safe and comfortable environment for all fans to enjoy, and sees this game as an important opportunity to educate the community about the prevalence of food allergies among children,” city spokeswoman Erika Storlie said in a news release Monday.

NU’s athletic department broke the news last week, but spokesman Dan Yopchick said the plan has been in the works for a while. The Cats’ away game Saturday gave the cleaning staff enough time to remove all peanut residue from Ryan Field.

“It was just kind of looking at the schedule,” Yopchick said. “We wanted to do it for a Big Ten game.”

Although Wildside was not involved in planning Peanut Free Day, Gram Bowsher, the group’s president, said the event is just as helpful to NU students as it is to Evanston children with allergies. 

“I know the original purpose was geared toward the younger kids who have peanut allergies, who typically wouldn’t be able to go to sporting events,” the SESP junior said. “But I think you can extend that to undergraduate students that have peanut allergies. This allows them to deal with it more carefree, to not worry about what people around them are eating and fully enjoy the game.”

Both Storlie and Yopchick suggested Saturday marks the first time any college sports stadium has banned peanuts. Major League Baseball teams such as the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees have hosted nut-free games, but there is no record of universities following suit.

“In doing our research and talking about it, we looked around on the Internet at different places that have done peanut-free events, and we saw that a lot of baseball teams had done it. Peanuts are synonymous with baseball,” Yopchick said. “But we never really came across anything in a college setting.”

If that claim is true, Bowsher said, Peanut Free Day can only mean good things for the Cats.

“It’s been a year of firsts for NU football. It’s been the first time we hosted ‘College Gameday’ since 1995,” he said. “From a marketing perspective, it gets Northwestern’s name out there.” 

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @mcorriston