Food & Beverage Service

Effective: Monday, July 1, 2019

Last Revised: Friday, November 4, 2022

Responsible University Administrator: Vice Chancellor, Business & Finance

Responsible University Office: Business & Finance

Policy Contact: Office of the Vice Chancellor for Business & Finance


This policy applies to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) campus. Exceptions beyond what is included in this policy are rare and must have the approval of UNL's Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance.

Policy Statement

Due to health safety concerns, all food served on campus must be furnished by a UNL contracted food caterer or from the list of Approved Food Providers (maintained by Risk Management and the Nebraska Unions) with the exception of classes taught by Campus Recreation, within their facilities, or any academic classes. In addition, beverages served at university-sponsored events, on or off-campus, must be Pepsi products.

Since different University Facilities may have exclusive catering contracts, whether a group is allowed to bring in food from a non-University contracted caterer will depend on the policy of the facility where the meeting/event is being held. Some facilities or academic classrooms may not allow food at all. Groups reserving these spaces will be required to follow the Facilities sub-food policy. 

It is not the intent of such a policy to prohibit anyone from “brown bagging” for personal consumption or prevent informal office luncheons within the department’s office space.


UNL no longer offers university-specific guidelines for food policy related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, please see Community Guidance and Recommendations section on the Lincoln/Lancaster County Health Department website.

Time/Temperature Control

Foods should not be exposed to the danger zone. Temperature danger zone is from 41°F to 135°F (the range in which rapid growth occurs), for more than 4 hours total, including time spent in preparation, cooling and reheating. Food that has been in the danger zone for more than 4 hours needs to be discarded immediately. It is not allowed to be removed from the event venue. The four hours begins when the food is picked up from or delivered by the food provider.

Grill Outs

Groups wanting to grill out may only serve pre-cooked hamburgers and/or pre-cooked hot dogs and use a propane/gas grill. Any other grilled food or charcoal grills are not allowed. All other food items need to be provided by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln contracted caterer or an approved food provider.

Bake Sales

Bake Sales may be held on the UNL campus by Recognized Student Organizations (RSOs) to raise funds in support of organizational activities. The following guidelines apply:

  • Bake sales which include homemade food will not be allowed. RSOs wanting to have a bake sale will need to purchase commercially produced baked goods or work with an approved University food vendor to provide baked goods.
  • All Baked goods will need to be individually pre-packaged via commercial methods or by the approved food vendor.
  • Individuals from the RSO will not be allowed to prepare and package the food/beverages themselves.
  • Food that is not time/temperature control for food safety such as:
    • Baked goods –rolls, breads, cookies, brownies, cupcakes, pies (non-dairy base filling), homemade granola product, etc.
    • Dairy based baked goods containing custard, creams, meringues or cheesecakes are not allowed.
    • Canned soda/pop must be Pepsi products. This includes bottled water.
    • Commercially packaged snack items, such as candy bars and chips
  • Items must be displayed and stored off of the floor/ground.
  • The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act requires that food labels must clearly identify the food source names of any ingredients that are one of the major food allergens or contain any protein derived from a major food allergen. The eight foods identified by law are: milk, eggs, fish (e.g., bass, flounder, cod), crustacean shellfish (e.g., crab, lobster, shrimp), tree nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts, pecans), peanuts, wheat and soybeans. These items should be clearly marked on products. It is particularly important to review ingredients when using boxed mixes where trace ingredients may be hidden.
  • An Event Planning Registration Form (EPR) needs to be completed with Student Involvement.
  • It is recommended that certain organizational representative(s) who are present throughout the bake sale be designated to only handle the food items taking the necessary precautions to sanitize beforehand.
  • Groups conducting bake sales must agree to hold UNL harmless in the event of any legal action resulting from the bake sale.

Eating Competitions

Due to the health and safety concerns associated with eating contests (food or liquid), these types of competitions are not supported by UNL. This includes any contest or competition where speed or volume consumption of food/beverage is the objective.


Pepsi is the official soft drink of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Beverages served at university-sponsored events, on or off-campus, must be Pepsi products. Non-Pepsi products served on-campus by UNL approved food caterers are allowed at privately catered events in suites, corporate tents, or other small private spaces, provided that the event is not sponsored or advertised by the university.

Examples of university-sponsored events include, but are not limited to:

Chancellor-Sponsored or All-Campus Events

  • Commencement & Hooding Ceremonies
  • Annual Faculty/Staff Service Award Program
  • State of the University Picnic
  • Distinguished Professor Award Winners’ Receptions/Dinners

Vice Chancellor-Sponsored Events

  • Chairs Workshop
  • Annual IANR Picnic for new and retired faculty
  • Research Compliance Trainings
  • Faculty Research Development

College/Department-Sponsored Events

  • UNL sponsored community visits or programs
  • Recruiting new faculty/staff members meals/receptions
  • Visiting faculty, guest speakers and/or consultants meals/receptions
  • Faculty/Staff retreats/training sessions with external presenter(s) and agenda
  • Advisory Board meetings (composed all or in-part of external members)
  • Student orientation or other student recognition events
  • Site/Accreditation visits
  • Student organization meals/receptions
  • 4-H Camps
  • Meals/receptions with students
  • New Faculty Orientation
  • Promotion & Tenure receptions

The following beverages are allowable at university-sponsored and non-sponsored events as they are excluded from Pepsi’s Beverage Rights Licensing Agreement:

  • Tap water and water contained in water-cooler sized bottles
  • Hot drinks intended to be served hot and not dispensed in bottles, cans, or through vending machines (i.e.: coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cider, mocha, cappuccino, espresso, and chais)
  • Coffee made in multi-cup coffee makers on premises from roasted coffee beans for immediate consumption
  • Non-alcoholic beer and wine
  • Unbranded fresh milk (including soy milk, almond milk, and dairy milk, as well as milk and soy based dietary supplement drinks, but not products called ‘milk’ that have sweeteners, flavorings, fruit juice, carbonation, protein, minerals, vitamins other than A and D, whey, caseins, cultures, tea, coffee, and other added ingredients)
  • Unbranded fresh squeezed fruit (including lemonade) or vegetable juice
  • Fruit (including lemonade) or vegetable juice derived from frozen concentrate
  • Fresh fruit or vegetable shakes or smoothies
  • Carbonated and non-carbonated sports drink
    • Sports drink is defined as a beverage that is labeled or marketed as a sports drink and is intended to be consumed for fluid replacement and contains electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and/or magnesium. Sports drinks, for the purpose of these guidelines, does not include any beverage flavored with or marked as a “cola”, labeled or marketed as a “sports water” or “fitness water”, or labeled or marketed as an “energy drink”
  • Beverages in containers brought to offices, classrooms, or living quarters for personal consumption and not for resale
  • Beverages in containers brought to skybox suites in Memorial Stadium

Reason for Policy

To provide direction to the UNL community regarding food furnished and served on campus, and beverages furnished and served at on and off-campus university-sponsored events.


Approved food providers must have a Lancaster County Health Certificate and appropriate liability insurance, as determined by the Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance. Food providers interested in being added to the list can email both their Certificate of Insurance and Lancaster County Health Certificate to riskmanagement@unl.eduDepending on the event and the food being purchased, additional event insurance may be required by the UNL Risk Management office.

Additional Contacts

Student Leadership, Involvement, & Community Engagement - Planning


Benefits & Risk Management - Insurance



  • This policy was reformatted in February 2020. No content edits were made.
  • June 2020 - Additional guidelines added to minimize risks associated with COVID-19.
  • March 2021 - Policy Scope updated to include "Exceptions beyond what is included in this policy are rare and must have the approval of UNL's Director of Risk Management."
  • July 2021 – COVID-19 guidelines that were added in June 2020 removed. Grill Out guidelines updated.
  • Sept 2021 - Verbiage added to clarify both the COI and Lancaster County Health Certificate need to be emailed to Risk Management to be added to the approved caterers list.
  • Nov 2022 - Beverage section added to policy statement.
  • April 2023 -- Guidelines section changed to reflect removal of university-specific guidelines for COVID.