Students praise Northwestern’s first allergy-conscious football game

Fans+cheer+on+Northwestern+during+Saturday%E2%80%99s+game+against+Minnesota.+The+athletic+department+hosted+a+peanut-free+day+in+an+attempt+to+open+the+stadium+to+fans+with+peanut+allergies.%0A

Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Fans cheer on Northwestern during Saturday’s game against Minnesota. The athletic department hosted a peanut-free day in an attempt to open the stadium to fans with peanut allergies.

Bob Hayes, Reporter

Northwestern’s inaugural Peanut Free Day attracted a number of fans to Ryan Field for their very first Wildcat football experience Saturday.

NU’s game against Minnesota was Ryan Field’s first-ever game during which peanuts were prohibited inside the stadium. For what is possibly the first-ever allergy-conscious game day at any college, the Family Weekend matchup drew many sports fans who cannot normally attend games due to their peanut allergies.

“Saturday was my first time attending a Northwestern game,” McCormick freshman Jon Hoffman said. “And it might be the only time I get to go unless Northwestern has a Peanut Free Day in the future.”

Hoffman, who said he is “deathly allergic” to peanuts, is one of at least 2 percent of Americans who have peanut allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

“Northwestern took the right steps to ensure that the game was perfectly safe,” Hoffman said. “They released the video of (Chicago Bears’ Charles) ‘Peanut’ Tillman and said they were power washing the entire stadium, and I ended up feeling totally comfortable at the game.”

Ryan Field concessions were adjusted to remove snacks that contained peanuts. SESP junior Karen Wilber, who works at a concession stand to raise money for Alternative Student Breaks, said peanuts, Cracker Jack, and Snickers bars were removed for Saturday’s game.

“A few people asked if we had some of the items that contained peanuts,” Wilber said, “but overall the event did not seem to have a big impact on our sales. Many people were happy that they could finally come to a game and order food without having to worry about allergies, so why not have peanut-free games every week?”

Athletic department spokesman Paul Kennedy said he was impressed by the execution of the allergy-conscious game day. Kennedy called the feedback from fans “exceptionally positive” and said the athletic department is assessing the possibility of hosting another allergy-conscious day in the future.

“By all accounts the day was a resounding success,” Kennedy said in an email to The Daily. “Both leading up to the event, and at the game, we heard from many families affected by peanut allergies that were so appreciative of the opportunity to enjoy the college football experience in person for the first time.”

Weinberg freshman Jason Chen, who is allergic to peanuts, said he normally feels comfortable attending NU football games, but he felt particularly safe at the peanut-free game Saturday.

Chen, who led an allergy awareness club in high school, said he was proud of NU’s efforts to create an allergy-friendly event.

“The University has been great about allergy awareness,” Chen said. “The dining halls make it easy to see what foods contain allergens on a daily basis, and the game Saturday further showed how Northwestern is at the forefront of this pressing issue that needs awareness.”

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Twitter: @_BobHayes_

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