The sections of this policy include:
Food includes meals, beverages, snacks, etc. but specifically excludes alcohol as an allowable food expense.
Certain auxiliary units (e.g. Georgia Center and Food Services) purchase food for
resale to the general public. This is the only instance where use of institutional
funds for the purchase of alcohol, for resale in the normal course of business, is
The purchase of food is authorized in those circumstances where the use of food is integral and necessary to the organization’s mission. Examples include the McPhaul Center, a daycare facility, which purchases food to provide meals to the children enrolled in the daycare center, and 4-H Centers that purchase food for dining facilities at the 4-H locations which serve attendees.
Food purchased by outside organizations for employees does not fall under the scope of this policy. However, employees must comply with the provisions of the Gratuity Policy, with a link to this policy found below in the Related Information section.
Food purchased by either the Arch Foundation or the UGA Foundation is governed by the policies and procedures of those entities. For information on Foundation funded travel expenses and food purchases, please see the Foundation policies link found under Related Information.
Food purchased for Study Abroad Programs is not addressed in this policy. Refer to
the link under Related Information for financial policies and procedures for Student
An individual may be subject to different rules depending on the capacity in which they are participating in an event. For example, volunteers might include employees or students if the individual is operating in a capacity separate from their employee or student role. An employee or volunteer attending a student event in the capacity of a student would be considered a student. A student worker participating in an event while being paid would be considered an employee. Employees working additional hours in their own area, using work time to provide volunteer service, or otherwise participating in activities expected of employees, are not volunteers for the purposes of this policy.
The funding source used to purchase food should generally match the supported program and participants. For example, student activity fees would be an appropriate funding source to purchase beverages for a volunteer event sponsored by a student group. In this instance, students, volunteers, and employees would presumably consume the beverages. However, student activity fees would not be an appropriate funding source to purchase water or other hydration products for employees conducting activities as part of their normal job, e.g., groundskeepers. The budget for the grounds keeping department is the appropriate funding source in this instance.
Employees with responsibility for administering institutional funds and employees requesting reimbursement from institutional funds should ensure that funds are spent only for legitimate public purposes and not for the personal benefit of the employee or other individuals. All expenses and supporting documentation are open to public records. Noncompliance with these requirements can result in audit findings, loss of funds, and adverse publicity. The misuse of institutional funds may result in both employment termination and various civil and criminal penalties.
The Food Reference Purchase Chart included in the Appendix A Policy Appendices section outlines the funding sources that may be used when making food purchases and provides some broad examples of allowable purchases. This chart is intended to provide guidance on allowable food purchases. It should be specifically noted that the use of P-Cards to purchase food is only allowable for:
Multiple payment methods may be used to make food purchases including check requests,
petty cash, and purchase orders insofar as these payment methods are not specifically
prohibited elsewhere in University Policy. A P-Card may only be used as outlined above
and as noted in the Food Purchase Reference Chart. NOTE: P-Card thresholds in this
policy are shown as less than $2,500; however, cardholders may work with Procurement
to obtain an exception to this policy and a higher single transaction limit on their
p-card which would raise the p-card threshold to less than $5,000.
Non-catered food purchases (i.e. individual items purchased from grocery stores) must be accompanied by a written justification as to why the food was purchased outside of a catering arrangement. For example, a department purchasing sandwiches and beverages from a local grocery for an approved Employee Group Meal might state that the meal was able to be provided at a lower cost than what was estimated by a caterer. This justification is necessary to substantiate that there has not been personal use of food purchased. Written justification is not required for food purchased for official research or instructional use as well as food purchased for resale by Auxiliary units. Employees with responsibility for administering funds should ensure that funds are spent only for legitimate public purposes and not for the personal benefit of the employee or other individuals.
Students include individuals enrolled to take classes at an institution, including students enrolled in Continuing Education, and individuals being recruited as potential students. Institutional funds may be used to purchase food for students per the following:
The Board of Regents policy specifies that while participants are not necessarily
in a travel status, the state travel per diem limits should apply to food purchased
for consumption by students at these type events. Food purchased at a restaurant or
on a per person basis should include a list of participant names and their relationship
to the University using the Reimbursement of University Related Entertainment Form
found in Forms/Instructions. In the event that an employee expends funds in excess
of the authorized per diem, the amount spent in excess is the responsibility of the
employee making such expenditure.
While the per diem limits also apply to group events where food is purchased on a group basis (pizza parties, etc.), departments are not required to document the actual numbers or names of participants. However, departments must provide documentation to substantiate how the appropriate per diem guidelines were followed.
Section 3.0 Food for Volunteers
Volunteers include individuals that provide benefits to the institution (serving on an advisory board, student mentors, etc.) without receiving compensation. Institutional funds may be used to purchase food for volunteers in those instances where a quid pro quo relationship exists. For example, an academic unit might form a volunteer advisory board for the purpose of obtaining advice, support, and expertise from members of the community as it relates to an academic program. It would be allowable to provide food to those volunteers as part of the advisory board meeting. However, food purchased solely in connection with volunteer appreciation or volunteer recognition events would not be allowable using institutional funds under this policy, but may be purchased using Foundation funds.
The Board of Regents policy specifies that while these participants are not necessarily in a travel status, the state travel per diem limits should apply to food purchased for consumption at these type events. Food purchased at a restaurant or on a per person basis should include a list of participant names and their relationship to the University using the Reimbursement of University Related Entertainment Form found under Forms/Instructions. In the event that an employee expends funds in excess of the authorized per diem, the amount spent in excess is the responsibility of the employee making such expenditure.
While the per diem limits also apply to group events where food is purchased on a group basis (pizza, etc.), departments are not required to document the actual numbers or names of participants. However, departments must provide documentation to substantiate how the appropriate per diem guidelines were followed.
Employees include temporary, part-time, and full-time staff, faculty, administrators,
resident assistants (RAs), graduate assistants, and other student workers. The employee’s
participation must be required, essential, and in furtherance of an official institutional
In general, employees in travel status are subject to the state travel regulations and employees in a group meal status are subject to those applicable policies (see sections 4.1 and 4.2 of this policy below). Otherwise, the following guidelines should be applied:
Specific instances of allowable reimbursement include:
Student recruiting. An employee may be reimbursed for food purchased at a meeting whose primary purpose is the recruitment of an individual to attend the institution. The employee’s participation in this meeting should be required as part of his or her job performance, and the institution should maintain control over the numbers of individuals necessary to attend a given recruitment meeting.
A prior/existing contractual or grant arrangement, which must be quid pro quo, not gratuitous. For example, an external organization may award funds to the institution with the specific proviso that these funds may be used for employee food expenses as it relates to grant activities or meetings. In this instance, food could be purchased within the grant guidelines.
However, federal grant funds should NOT be used to purchase food for employees unless the federal grantor agency, in writing, authorizes this expenditure and certifies that this waiver is not a violation of applicable federal regulations.
The business purpose should be clearly stated and should accompany any invoices submitted for payment. Additionally, the state travel policy per diem limits apply to food purchased for consumption by employees participating in a program, event, or meeting or otherwise reimbursed to the employee by the institution. Per Diem limits apply only to food purchased with institutional funds. Food purchased by outside organizations does not fall under the scope of this policy. However, employees must comply with the provisions of the Gratuity policy as it pertains to receiving gifts.
Section 4.1 UGA Employee Group Meals
This policy is in accordance with Board of Regents Procedures and the policy of the
State Accounting Office and Office of Planning and Budget. This policy provides guidance
regarding situations in which an employer might purchase meals for a group of employees
when such employees may not be on travel status or otherwise eligible for payment
Under certain infrequent circumstances, employees may be required to remain at the work site during mealtime. Those circumstances include emergency situations, such as natural disasters and crisis operations, but may also include intra-departmental meetings or training sessions, where the meeting or training session continues during the meal and the employees are not permitted to leave the premises of the meeting site.
Under these similar circumstances, organizations may purchase meals for the affected employees using the following standards:
Requests for approval of group meals should utilize the Request for Authorization to Provide on Campus Employee Group Meals Request Form,
with a link to this form provided below under the Forms/Instructions heading, and
have attached the required documentation as noted above. Employee Group Meal expenditures
will be charged to object code 72770. All of the documents that are required for the
prior approval process should be submitted with the payment request along with signed
approval. All documents will be retained for audit purposes. These expenditures are
subject to special audit scrutiny, to insure that uses of funds for this purpose are
infrequent rather than routine.
Section 4.2 Employee Group Meals Involving Multiple Institutions
Efficient and effective administration of University System of Georgia (USG) Institutions may require instances when various groups of university officials such as Presidents, Executive officers, or employees representing functional areas such as student activities, academic affairs, business affairs, etc. may be required to meet. The purpose of these meetings must support the official business purpose of the institutions represented. These events are often sponsored by a USG institution or by the University System Office and are supported through the use of registration fees charged to participants. Registration fees may be reimbursed by the participant’s home institution and may be used for expenses such as speaker fees, room rentals, equipment charges, food for meals and breaks, and items directly related to the purpose of the meeting. For policy and procedure relating to Group Meals Involving Multiple Institutions, please reference the Board of Regents Procedure Manual Section 19.7.2 link provided under Related Information.
Section 5.0 Food Purchased for Conferences and Workshops
UGA units hosting and coordinating conferences and workshops collect registration fees that may be used for food for meals and breaks which are an official and integral component of the conference or workshop. In general, departments should contract with a caterer to provide the necessary meals and breaks. Non-catered food purchases (i.e. individual items purchased from grocery stores) must be accompanied by a written justification as to why the food was purchased outside of a catering arrangement. This justification is necessary to substantiate that there has not been personal use of food purchased. As noted in section 1.0 of this policy, employees with responsibility for administering funds should ensure that funds are spent only for legitimate public purposes and not for the personal benefit of the employee or other individuals.
Per Board of Regents policy, institutional funds, which include conference and workshop accounts, cannot pay for alcohol. In those instances where alcohol is needed at a reception or dinner associated with a conference or workshop, a cash bar should be utilized. Registration fees may be used to pay for bartender services.
Section 6.0 Meals Purchased for Business Related Entertainment
University related entertainment charges/meals purchased for business related entertainment
include business related breakfast, lunch or dinner, catered business-related meeting,
fund-raising or alumni event, etc. Alcohol cannot be purchased using any University
account. Any purchases of alcohol must be made directly from a Foundation account.
Units should not expend funds for business related entertainment from University restricted accounts which are specifically supported by the UGA Foundation or the Arch Foundation, but instead, should process payments directly with the appropriate Foundation.
Business related entertainment charges may only be processed on the UGA accounts listed below:
Invoices or receipts submitted for reimbursement of alcohol cannot be paid through
a UGA account. Such expenses should be paid directly from Foundation accounts.
All purchases should be submitted for reimbursement using a check request form pertinent to either UGA or a Foundation, as appropriate under this policy. All requests submitted on a UGA account must include the original/scanned receipt and the UGA Reimbursement of University Related Entertainment Form. For payments made directly from Foundation accounts, the following is required:
For payments made on Sponsored accounts:
As the University must comply with federal cost accounting standards which require consistency in the treatment of costs, the University typically cannot use sponsored funds for business related entertainment since University state accounts do not specifically allow the purchase of business related entertainment. Therefore, discretion must be exercised when charging such expenses to sponsored restricted accounts. As such, the cost of purchased meals or food within fifty (50) miles of the University area will normally not be allowed as a direct charge to a sponsored restricted account because the UGA employee or trainee is not "traveling" and the cost is normally considered a personal expense. See the following paragraph for special circumstances.
In special situations, such as all day seminars or meetings, food, beverage, or meal cost may meet the three criteria of allowable, allocable and reasonable to the specified sponsored project. The faculty member can use sponsored accounts to pay for these costs if he/she provides written justification of the business purpose of the expenditures and how they relate to the specific sponsored project. The written justification should include the purpose of the meeting, list of attendees, a formal written agenda, and the beginning and end times of the meeting. To be allowable, the following items must be provided:
Additional guidance is provided by the following Federal Sponsors at the following
Examples of allowable food charges:
Examples of unallowable food charges:
(While these expense examples may not be allowable on sponsored restricted accounts, they may be reimbursed from discretionary type restricted accounts or directly from the Foundation.)
Furthermore, according to Chapter II of the National Science Foundation (NSF) GPG,
costs of entertainment, amusement, diversion and social activities and any costs directly
associated with such activities (such as tickets to shows or sporting events, meals,
lodging, rentals, transportation and gratuities) are unallowable.
Travel, meal and hotel expenses of grantee employees who are not on travel status are unallowable. Costs of employees on travel status are limited to those allowed under the governing cost principles for travel expenses.
Section 7.0 Documentation Requirements and Enforcement of Per Diem Limits at Group Events
Nothing in this policy shall be construed as requiring a department to provide food
to employees for events or to reimburse employees for participation in events. When
circumstances warrant the provision of funds for allowable food purchases, departments
should follow normal procedures to ensure that funds for employee food are not spent
without the appropriate supervisory review and approval.
Check requests must include original/scanned receipts and adequate documentation associated with the event and/or purchase. For example, food purchased for a group event should include a flyer, email, agenda, or other documentation substantiating that the event was an official event. Food purchased at a restaurant or on a per person basis should include a list of participants using the Reimbursement of University Related Entertainment Form found under the Forms/Instructions section below.
In the event that an employee expends funds in excess of the authorized state travel
policy per diem, then the amount spent in excess should be covered/reimbursed by the
employee making that expenditure.
While the per diem limits also apply to group events where food is purchased on a group basis (pizza parties, etc.), departments are not required to document the actual numbers or names of participants. However, departments expending institutional funds for those events should confirm through the supporting documentation that the appropriate per diem limits were followed.
A Food Purchases Reference Chart can be found under the Policy Appendices and should be referenced for a summary of this policy.
This policy and the related procedures conform to Board of Regents (BOR) of the University System of Georgia policies. These policies clarify instances when food may be purchased for consumption by students, potential students, volunteers and employees using institutional funds. As stated in the Board of Regents manual, institutional funds include all funds held in University accounts. The policy also addresses instances when food for employees may be purchased or food expenses may be reimbursed other than provisions under the state travel policy when employees are on travel status.
P-Card thresholds in this policy are shown as less than $2,500; however, cardholders may work with Procurement to obtain an exception to this policy and a higher single transaction limit on their p-card which would raise the p-card threshold to less than $5,000.
Certain food and entertainment expenses are limited in the purchasing methods that may be used to charge them. Some of these limitations and documentation requirements are outlined below:
Please consult Board of Regents Policy 19.8 for further information regarding the purchase of food using institutional funds. A link to this policy can be found under Related Information.
Research Grant Records
These records relate to funded research grant proposals and research activity associated with grant funded projects. Examples of records include: supporting statistics, demographic data, draft proposals, suggested revisions, final proposals, forms, protocols, applications, research/activity reports, progress reports, and summary reports.
Retention: Final research report is permanent. All other records: 7 years after the end of the grant period.
This series includes bank statements, purchase requests, purchase orders, requisitions, financial reports, accounts payable and receivable records, write-off records, discrepancy, payment schedules, operating statements, year-end projections, reconciliation and expenditure reports, cancelled checks, check stubs, moving expense records, cost accounting reports, refund/disbursement request records, returned checks, deposit slips, travel records, credit voucher requisition records, cash balances and reconciliations, sales and cash reconciliation records, journal entries, outstanding obligations, refund/disbursement requests, receipts and invoices.
Retention: Monthly and quarterly reports: 1 year. All other records: 5 years.
Credit Card Administration Records
This series documents administration of credit cards and P-cards issued to institutional staff and units. Records may include: applications, master monthly billing statements, individual card holders' statements, billing summaries, printouts including vendor analysis by code, number of charges and stores, and use summaries.
Retention: 7 years.
Can I use my P-Card to purchase food?
The use of a P-Card to purchase food is only allowable for:
Please refer to the P-Card Manual for additional guidance regarding the purchase of food using the P-Card. A link can be found under the Related Information section.
Can I purchase food from a grocery store for use in a conference?
Departments should contract with a caterer to provide the necessary meals and breaks; however, if non-catered food purchases (i.e. individual items purchased from a grocery store) are specifically needed, a written justification as to why the food was purchased outside of a catering agreement must accompany any request for payment.
Which UGA accounts may I use to pay for business entertainment related food charges?
Note: When using Arch or Foundation funds, the expense must be made directly from the Foundation and not through a UGA Restricted account funded by the Foundation.
On which UGA accounts is the purchase of alcohol an allowable expenditure?
Per Board of Regents policy, alcohol is not an allowable expense to be charged to any University account, including conferences and workshops. In those instances where alcohol is needed at a reception or dinner which is part of the conference/workshop agenda, a cash bar should be utilized. Registration fees may be used to pay for bartending services and set up fees.
For resale in the normal course of business, certain auxiliary units (i.e. Georgia Center and Food Services) are the only units allowed to purchase alcohol using institutional funds (i.e. auxiliary funds).
Please contact Sponsored Programs Post Award Accounting directly for any questions related to sponsored accounts in which the sponsoring agency specifically and explicitly allowed for the purchase of alcohol with private grant funds.
The Purchasing Food and Alcohol PowerPoint is also available under Policy Appendices to answer any additional questions you may have.
Finance Policy 13.5: Direct Cost
Date Reviewed: 02/15/2018