Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Take Me Out to the (Gluten-Free) Ball Game

It seems only fitting that on the heels of writing a post about "teachable moments," I receive an email about an upcoming event promoting Celiac Disease awareness. I think of these as life's funny moments of incredible synchronicity, or the too-convenient coincidence. At any rate, the event in question is happening at the end of the month on Sunday, September 27 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, home of the Pirates MLB baseball team. They're playing the Los Angeles Dodgers, with the opening pitch being thrown at 1:35pm Eastern Time.

The event is being called Celiac Awareness Day at PNC Park, and it's one part awareness-building and one part fundraising. Fans can buy discounted tickets ($20 for outfield, $12 for grandstand) with either $5 or $2 of your ticket price being donated to support the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, the Gluten Intolerance Group, and the Celiac Sprue Association. It's great to see the word getting out, and to see some great organizations benefiting from the exposure. There's just one problem...the Pittsburgh Pirates don't seem to have gotten the memo.

The MLB site for the Pirates lists the Dodgers game on the schedule, but the only events and promotions listed for the game are Kids Day and Fan Appreciation Day. There's nary a mention of Celiac or gluten to be found. Bah humbug. And PNC Park doesn't exactly appear to be the most GF-friendly place to eat - NFCA recommends using caution when consuming the food (if you choose to risk it). That's too bad. It's kind of like celebrating Kosher Jewish Awareness Day, and serving pork to recognize the occasion.

Thankfully, major sports stadiums are genuinely starting to take note. Earlier this year, Coors Field in Denver (home of the Colorado Rockies MLB team) became the first MLB stadium in the country to start serving gluten-free food from a dedicated booth. The change came from Aramark, the exclusive food and beverage provider for the park. The menu features hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, brownies, chips, cookies, soda, water (duh) and Redbridge beer. This is huge - they're basically offering a soup-to-nuts ballpark food experience, all gluten-free. Big kudos to Aramark, Coors Field and the Rockies. The booth (located behind section 147, for all you baseball fans) has garnered much attention, from local network TV affiliates in Denver and the Denver Post, to food bloggers in California and even the HuffingtonPost.

Admittedly, it's been a good long while since I've been to Coors Field for a Rockies game. But it's nice to know that when I return, I've got options. And hopefully, with awareness events like the one upcoming at PNC Park, this is a trend that will continue...starting with PNC Park itself.

- Pete

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