661  Meals and Refreshments for Both On and Off Campus

Approved by President
Effective Date: June 5, 2017
Responsible Division: Business and Finance
Responsible Office:  Business and Finance
Responsible Officer:  Associate Vice President, Business and Finance

I. Purpose

All Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU or University) funds, regardless of their source of origin, are considered to be public funds, and, as such, must withstand the test of public scrutiny. University officials authorized to approve the purchase of meals should exercise prudent judgment when determining whether the expenditure is appropriate. The following principles should be used as a guide when determining the appropriateness of the expenditure:

A.  The expenditure must support the mission and purpose of the University.

B.  If for an event, the event must be an authorized official University event.

C.  The expenditure should not be personal in nature.

D.  It should be apparent to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that the expenditure is not additional compensation to the claimant.

E.  The amount expended should be reasonable.

F.  State funds may never be used for the purchase of alcoholic beverages.

II. Provisions

A.  The Food Payment Authorization form must be used for the purchase of all food and beverages being purchased with University funds. It is recommended that the Food Payment Authorization be approved prior to the event. If the purchase is not approved prior to the event, the employee may be held personally responsible for all related costs.

B.  The University's food service vendor has the exclusive right to provide all on-campus meals, according to the vendor's contract.  All departments are required to utilize the University food service vendor, unless the vendor declines to provide services for the requested event. When planning food events on campus that are not provided by the University’s contracted food service vendor, University officials should review Policy 662 Food Service Provided – Self-Catered or Off-Campus and complete the Application to Bring Food on Campus. The billing invoice should be attached to the completed Food Payment Authorization.

C.  Provisions of this policy apply to all purchases of food and beverages. Under no circumstances will the purchase of alcohol be permitted. Food and beverage purchases should not be self-serving for the sole enjoyment of department personnel.

D.  Food and beverage purchases may be paid, or reimbursed, with proper documentation and when the primary purpose of the meal is business related. Business meals generally include at least one (1) non-university employee. Expenses may be incurred only for those individuals whose presence is necessary to the business discussion.

In addition to an itemized receipt, IRS rules of substantiation of business expenses require documentation of the time, date, place, specific topic of discussion, and attendees at the mealsPlease note that the documentation requirements apply to all on-campus or off-campus business meals, regardless of payment method. Accordingly, all on-campus dining facilities require this documentation for all meals charged to departmental accounts.

If guest meals are purchased while in travel status, the reimbursement of the guest meal (including the employee's meal) will be made subject to this policy. The request for reimbursement of guest meal(s) should be submitted separately on the Food Payment Authorization, but must be submitted at the same time as the Travel Expenses Claim. If more than one (1) University employee in travel status was included in the guest meal party, travel claims for all University employees must be submitted with the guest meal reimbursement request.

The University will deny reimbursement for meal expenses that lack documentation or a clear business purpose. Gatherings that are primarily social in nature, such as holiday events, do not qualify for payment or reimbursement as business meals.

E.  Food and beverage expenditures associated with banquets, receptions, and ceremonies may be reimbursed only within the following guidelines:

1.  Food and beverage consumed by a visiting lecturer, entertainer, or guest of the University.

2.  Food and beverage which may be an essential part of a program, such as, but not limited to, that needed for day care locations, science laboratories, and those events that promote or provide cultural awareness.

3.  Food and beverage which is an integral element of a program that is institutionally supported and recognized, such as, but not limited to, approved conferences, extended training sessions, seminars, and outreach efforts between the University and other groups, communities, organizations, or associations.

4.  University funds may be used to purchase food and non-alcoholic beverages for recognition, appreciation, and/or retirement events. Events should be reasonable in their number and occurrence per fiscal year, as well as the amount spent. Events must be institutionally recognized, with attendance open to all University employees. 

F.  Food Purchases for Students. The University hosts a variety of student-oriented functions that are designed to enhance campus life and a sense of community, in addition to furthering student education. Meals may be provided to students attending University events, including student recognition or outreach events, programmatic activities, or other events with a documented business purpose which are intended to further the University’s mission. The frequency and related costs of these events must be appropriate to the situation(s) and the nature of business conducted by the University. A statement of the reason or purpose, including the benefits of the program to the University, must be clearly indicated and understood by anyone outside the department reviewing the payment request. The events cannot be purely social in nature. Examples of official student functions are as follows:

1.  Sanctioned Student Events. Functions and receptions sponsored by recognized student groups and other campus events, open to the general student body, and designed to further the development and education of students. 

2.  Official University Events. Functions and receptions for students and their families, in conjunction with academic achievements or recruiting.

3.  Housing Functions. The University recognizes that student-housing residents have needs beyond those of commuter students. To support their needs, Housing and Residential Life may provide funds aimed at the development of the whole student. Food purchases for residence hall functions that address this goal are allowable, provided documentation explains the relationship between the expenses and the criteria established for the development of the whole student and student retention.

4.  Athletic Teams. Including training-table meals, game-related meals, and occasional meals provided in accordance with the rules of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

G.  Reimbursement of actual expenses for meals and related costs shall be allowable when the University is acting as designated host(s) to guests of the University or other official business functions. The University official requesting reimbursement must have been present when the meal was purchased or refreshments occurred. Reimbursement shall not exceed amounts that are reasonable and appropriate for the location and circumstance. In determining reasonableness, consider the type of function being hosted and the per diem meal allowance allowed for travel within the same location.

H.  The request for reimbursement or payment should include identification of the function and the identification of all persons being served. However, it need not necessarily include specific names. Those served can be identified, for example, as 34 registered conference participants and guests, subject to there being available for audit a roster, registration list, or other information which could be used to identify the persons being served. The approving official is responsible for seeing that adequate documentation exists to support payment under this provision.

I.  The Food Payment Authorization must be submitted for each meal or event. A description of the event, and a statement of purpose, must be included on the form together with original receipts. The statement of purpose should be more descriptive than business. Credit card receipts will be accepted as documentation for reimbursement, providing the vendor name is legible and the receipt is itemized. The form must be signed by the claimant and approved by the department head or next level of approving authority.

J.  The Department Head, or next level of approving authority, is responsible for insuring the reasonableness of the meal costs and the legitimacy of the business purpose.  Departments should clearly communicate to employees the acceptable business purposes that will be approved. 

K.  The appropriate Vice President or designee must approve any exceptions to this policy. The signature must be included on the Food Payment Authorization.


Food Payment Authorization

Application to Bring Food on Campus

Revisions: none.

Last Reviewed: June 2017.

References: Policy 662 Food Service Provided – Self-Catered or Off-Campus.