Philip Knight at Fare promo
Special Diet Chef Philip Knight at Fare, a station that accomodates students with food allergies in Univeristy of Richmond's Heilman Dining Center.

Fan Fare

December 14, 2023
Fare was added to the Heilman Dining Center to accomodate the needs of special diet students. Philip Knight and Karen Hensley describe their work at the new station and improvements for Spiders with dietary restrictions.

A sleek renovation to the Heilman Dining Center (HDC) in the summer of 2021 led to the creation of Fare, an area dedicated to feeding students with food allergies. Special Diet Chef Philip Knight and Senior Registered Dietitian Karen Hensley manage the area together to provide an equitable dining hall experience for all.

Before Fare, the special diet kitchen was located behind the serving line near the woks. The new area is located next to Handcrafted, the deli, away from other food preparation areas. At Fare, students can access a special diet refrigerator and pantry. All food preparation for this new station is encompassed in one area for Knight, which helps prevent allergen cross-contamination.

Knight and Hensley enjoy working closely with students and have seen the requests for special diet accommodations increase over the past few years. A program that once provided meals for eight students now accommodates 28 students. “There is a rise in the number of people who have food allergies and the number of people being put on special diets due to medical reasons,” said Hensley.

Every day Knight interacts with special diet students and enjoys getting to know them on a personal level. “It’s so rewarding to help the students by making them a nice meal that’s similar to what’s being served in the HDC,” Knight said. “I know they appreciate it and it feels great when their parents stop by to say thank you, too.”

“I have gotten to know Philip very well, and consider him a great friend,” said student athlete William Marhold ’26. “I am very thankful that he is the special diet chef because he has a real interest in creating foods that are safe for people with allergies like me.”

There are many dining offerings around campus for special diet students to take advantage of as well. Every retail location has options with gluten-friendly ingredients. All students can download the Nutrislice app, which gives users access to the nutrition facts, a filterable list of allergens found in each dish, and the ingredients used to prepare meals at every campus dining location.

All of these options and the creation of Fare allow students with food allergies to experience the joy and social atmosphere that is D-Hall, with a sense of safety. “I never have to worry about a lack of quality or nutritional value in my meals. Karen and Philip are extremely in tune with our food interests and work hard to make sure that there is always a constant supply of good food,” Marhold said.