Policy and Applicability
New: Review for guidance on Virtual Meetings
Many UW funds are either not approved for food and/or alcohol purchases, or have some restrictions. This guide, plus reviewing the funding source, will help ensure that all expenses charged to University funds are allowable and appropriate for the funding source.
Please note, there are no food flags in Workday.
|Common Budget Number Types
|UW Medical Center
|Aux Ent and Service Funds Self-
|Food for Research
|Host and Entertain
1 = Food purchase allowable if funding source allows for food. Review with The Advancement Office about fund set up. Gift budgets for capital building funds, scholarships or graduate fellowships are not eligible for food approval. If the fund is an endowment operating budget, please call Vivianne Yang (1-7239) in the Treasury Office for approval.
2 = For policy on food purchases on sponsored awards, see Food Purchases on Sponsored Awards for guidance.
3 = Food purchase allowable for training, recognition or business meetings; food approval form must be on file. EXCEPTION TO PER DIEM: expenditures for workshops, continuing education courses, retreats, tours, conferences etc. where the source of funding is the participant fees and the participants are predominantly non-university individuals. NOTE: For UW Medicine food purchases, use the Single Transaction Pre-Approval Form.
*Food purchases are unallowable on service and recharge center funds, unless certain exceptions apply. For additional guidelines relating to food purchases on service and recharge center funds, please see the MAA Service & Recharge Centers FAQs.
4 = Food purchase allowable on discretionary funds for all of the scenarios above. Department policy may require Chair, Director, Dean or VP approval, which may be delegated to a Department Administrator. Discretionary funds do not require use of the food approval form.
Funds that have a programmatic requirement for food purchases, such as conference/workshop funds, funds for meals for athletic teams, or other revenue fund food purchases that don’t fit the food approval form criteria. Department will keep a memo on file indicating the programmatic requirement for food purchase for each fund.
Fixed Price Surplus, Royalty Income and Clinical Medicine funds may purchase food using the food approval form for events meeting the food approval form criteria below.
For Gifts or Grants that allow alcoholic beverages or over per-diem food costs, the anticipated costs are to be transferred to a discretionary sub budget.
Funds used to purchase food for patients of UW Medicine or for research subjects.
Funds used to purchase food for resale.
Funds used to purchase food during study abroad programs.
Use the food approval form for approval of one-time or recurring events requiring food purchases only for events meeting these criteria:
- Recognition events (such as awards for improvements, or University employment milestones)
- Training events, including student orientations
- Business meetings to conduct UW business where a meal or light refreshment is an integral part of the official meeting
- Contact Procurement Customer Service at 206-543-4500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For grant and contract funds, contact email@example.com or 206-616-9995.
- For help with Gifts, contact UW Advancement at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Purchasing compliance within fund and grant guidelines is the responsibility of the department.
- For Grants and Contracts, see Grants Information Memorandum #2 for Fiscal Roles and Responsibilities.
- For consultation and advice for gift and discretionary funds, contact University Advancement at email@example.com.
- For additional consultation and advice on other funds, contact Procurement Customer Service at 206-543-4500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Food to support normal daily business of university employees, regularly scheduled meetings, open houses, or receptions for new employee can only be purchased from discretionary funding. Purchases of alcoholic beverages or over per diem amounts for food may only be purchased with discretionary funds.
- Food for hosting and entertaining may be purchased with discretionary funds or on allowable gift funds.
- Food for graduation events must be paid for with discretionary funds, or allowable gift funds if allowed by school or college policy.
- Food purchases for lobbying a legislator or governmental official or elections or election celebrations are never permitted on any University funding source, including discretionary funds.
The meal or light refreshments must be an integral part of an official University meeting or formal training session, such as a lunch speaker, or when obtaining meals away from the meeting location would be disruptive to event continuity, etc.
Attendance by the individuals(s) must be advantageous to the UW
The purpose of the event must be to conduct official UW business or to provide formal training to UW employees or non-instructional training to students
The meeting or formal training must be conducted at a location away from the place where the employee normally performs his/her work (such as the employee’s desk or cubicle). Acceptable locations include meeting and conference rooms.
- Food purchases are generally not allowed for employees working remotely. Mere virtual attendance at a department meeting in itself is not a permissible event for providing food items.
- The food policy has strict criteria for allowable food purchases. The meals or light refreshments must be "an integral part of an official University meeting or formal training session, such as when hosting a lunch speaker or when obtaining meals away from the meeting location would be disruptive to event continuity." An example would be an off-site event location or conference room away from the employee's routine work location, in situations where food may not be available. Additionally, there may be personal tax implications unless the meal is related to employee travel or where the meal doesn't align with the UW Meal and Light Refreshment Policy.
- Food purchases are acceptable when the meal provided is the recognition of work-related accomplishments, provided during a documented formal recognition event, and adheres to the university recognition policy: https://hr.uw.edu/talent/recognition/employee-recognition/faq/
- Since many UW funds have restrictions and do not allow food or alcohol purchases, a discretionary fund may be used instead. Note that even discretionary funds should not be used for items that are personal in nature, and that may include food purchases for employees working at home, for example. Procurement Services highly recommends UW employees review the University's food policy above to understand the permissible criteria and compliance requirements of such policy.
There is a very high burden of proof for food/meals and beverages on sponsored awards. For more information, see Food Purchases on Sponsored Awards.
The event must include the formal presentation of a recognition award to one or more employees or students, such as successful completion of an extraordinary special project, acknowledgment of official University employment milestones (10+ years of service) or other outstanding achievement. Only light refreshments may be served at the event.
The meal expenditure or reimbursement may not exceed the travel per diem limit for the meal (including taxes, gratuity utensils, catering fees etc). Amounts over per diem may be reimbursed using a discretionary funding source only when approved by a Dean or Vice President (or by a Director, Chairperson or Administrator with written delegated authority) as department policy. If the meal is a recognition award, the amount of the meal per individual(s) being recognized is not limited to the per diem rate. However, only the meal expense for the individual(s) being recognized may be paid using University funds; the cost of meals for other attendees not being recognized must be charged to a discretionary funding source.
For recognition of employees, the total amount expended per recognition award, including light refreshments, is limited to the monetary level authorized in RCW 41.60.150 ($200 per individual or group receiving recognition). For example, if members of a team are being recognized, the amount expended for the light refreshments is limited to $200. Food served at a recognition event is restricted to light refreshments unless the actual recognition award is a meal.
Use a spend category that applies to meals or light refreshments.
Lists of attendee names or invitees must be maintained by the department.
Off-campus providers (vendors) may be paid using:
On-campus providers may be paid via an Internal Sales Document or Journal Voucher
Reimbursements to employees when the total cost of meals/light refreshments (including taxes and gratuities) is less than $3500 can be submitted through Expense Reports.