POL-U5348.16 Purchasing Food and Beverages

Dates and Approval

Effective Date:

April 28, 2015

Revised Date:

January 17, 2023

Approved by:

President Sabah Randhawa

Who does this policy apply to?

This policy only applies when using Chart 1 funds to purchase food/beverages and when there is no event fee to cover the cost of the food and beverages. It also applies to such purchases that are split funded with Chart 1 funds. 

 Alternate rules for purchasing food and beverages when using:

  • Chart 2 and 3 funds, contact University Advancement
  • Service and Activities (S&A) fees, see S&A Guidelines
  • Associated Students Food and Beverage policies

For meals during travel status, follow the Traveling for Official University Business Policy (POL-U5348.10). 


In support of Western’s mission to be responsible stewards of its resources and contract commitments, this policy establishes guidelines for the purchase of food and/or beverages served at University-sponsored or co-sponsored activities on or off campus.


Coffee and Light Refreshments

Coffee encompasses any non-alcoholic beverage, such as tea, soft drinks, juice, or milk. A light refreshment is an edible item that may be served between meals, such as pastries and pieces of fruit or cheese.


Includes breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner.

Official State Business

Activities performed by an official or state employee, authorized volunteer, or contractor, work experience program participant, student, or employee of another governmental jurisdiction as directed by the supervisor in order to accomplish state programs, or as required by the duties of the position or office.

Policy Statements

1. Chief Procurement Officer Oversees Internal Controls for Purchasing Food and Beverages

The Chief Procurement Officer, under the purview of the Vice President for Business and Financial Affairs, will ensure a process is established to facilitate and monitor state compliance and expenditures related to food and beverage purchases.

2. Food Purchases Must Meet State and University Criteria

Food purchases must meet applicable state, University, grant, and/or contract criteria and requirements. Requestors and approvers are accountable for ensuring applicable criteria is met to avoid inappropriate use of state funds.

3. Approval Required Prior to Purchasing or Ordering

All food and/or beverage purchases require prior approval using the Food and Beverage Form (FRM-U5348.10A). Each Vice President will ensure there is a division approval process to ensure compliance and appropriate use of funds.

For specific recurring events, a blanket authorization may be requested and granted for the current fiscal year. Blanket authorizations must be reviewed at least annually unless otherwise authorized by the appropriate Vice President, the Provost or President.

4. Purchase of Light Refreshments or Meals Allowed Under Certain Conditions

Light refreshment or meals may be purchased for a meeting or an event when it meets all of the required criteria for purchase. Criteria for food purchases are listed on the approval form.

5. Food and Beverage Purchases Using Chart 1 Funds Not Allowed for Certain Activities

Food and beverage purchases are not allowed for the following activities:

  1. Events that are part of normal daily agency (University) business such as regularly scheduled staff meetings,
  2. Receptions for new, existing and/or departing employees,
  3. Anniversaries of the agency (University), departments, programs, or individual employees,
  4. Hosting activities which include, but are not limited to, the activities that are intended either to lobby a legislator or a governmental official, or are to be social rather than governmental business event or
  5. Election celebrations
  6. Student recognition event

Division heads may establish additional restrictions.

6. Compliance with Contractual Requirements Required

WWU Dining Services is the exclusive caterer for Western. All food and beverages for meetings, trainings and events on/in University facilities in Bellingham, WA must be provided by WWU Dining – Catering Services. Providing outside food and beverages requires explicit approval from the University Dining Services Administrator (via the University Dining Services Catering Exemption Request form) no less than two weeks prior to the event.

7. Division Vice President (or President) Approval Required for Alcohol Service

Departments that wish to have alcoholic beverages served during a University activity must follow the Standards for Serving Alcohol at University Activities (STN-U1300.03B) to ensure Washington state and Vice President (or President) approval.

8. Potlucks Permitted Under Certain Circumstances

Potlucks are generally defined as:

  • Attendees include invited faculty, staff and guests only,
  • Attendees are asked to bring food/beverages to share,
  • The food is not readably accessible to anyone other than the invited guests,
  • There is no payment or reimbursement provided to people for bringing food,
  • There is no charge for any food or beverage provided at the event,
  • No alcohol is served unless in compliance with section #8 of this policy, and
  • The event is not for commercial purposes.

Distribution of safe food handling guidance prior to the potluck is encouraged.

9. Purchases and Reimbursements Subject to Dollar Limits

Light refreshments: The Vice president for Business and Financial Affairs sets the light refreshment dollar limit which is specified on the Food and Beverage Approval Form (FRM-U5348.16A).

Meals: Purchase of or reimbursement for meals are not to exceed state per diem rates. Individual divisions or departments may establish stricter limits. Budget authorities are responsible for ensuring limits are enforced.

10. Compliance will be Enforced

Due to the potential misuse of funds, compliance will be strictly enforced through random internal control audits. Violation will be monitored and reported to the appropriate management, including Human Resources and appropriate Vice President for repeated violations.

Policy Information


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See Also:

Display procedures, standards, and forms