Food Service on Campus

Effective: Monday, July 1, 2019

Last Revised: Monday, June 22, 2020

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 with the exception of classes taught by Campus Recreation, within their facilities, or any academic classes.

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). 

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.

General Guidelines

  • Food and beverages must to be served in “single serve” containers or individually wrapped.  This includes but is not limited to food such as meat and cheese trays, veggie trays, bags or bowls of chips with dips, and beverages in multi-serve containers.  Individual bottles or cans will be required for beverages.  Coffee or hot tea would need to be served in individual cups with lids which were prepared by an approve food vendor.
  • All utensils need to be single wrapped, one-time use.
  • Buffets will not be allowed unless special arrangements to have catering staff serve the food have been made with one of the University’s contracted caterers. 
  • Served meals from an approve caterer will be allowed as long as plating and serving procedures are in place. 

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

Grill Outs will not be allowed unless the food is prepared and served by approved food vendors.

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.
  • An Event Planning Registration Form (EPR) needs to be completed with Student Involvement.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Items must be displayed and stored off of the floor/ground.

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.

Reason for Policy

To provide direction to the UNL community regarding food furnished and served on campus and to minimize the risks associated with COVID-19.


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 their Certificate of Insurance 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 Involvement - 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.