Providing Food at Events with Alcohol Present

Providing food at an event with alcohol present

As stated in the University's alcohol policy in the 2010-2011 Student Handbook, "Reasonable amounts of solid food and non-alcoholic beverages must be available [at events]." (p.45). This policy is in effect in order to follow the New York State Alcohol Board policy that food should be available to 'customers', or in this case attendees of the event, for consumption. The Office of Student Activities and Leadership in conjunction with Dining Services have worked to define reasonable amounts of solid food in order to meet the requirements set by this policy.

Solid (or substantial) food is defined as any food that includes considerable amounts of carbohydrates and/or proteins. Reasonable amounts is defined as servings, or proportions, sufficient enough to serve the expected attendance throughout the duration of this event. This is more specifically defined as 1 serving, per person, per hour the event lasts. As part of the definition of reasonable amounts the number of options is also a consideration. The organizers of the event will be expected to provide 2-4 food choices at their event and the specific amount will be determined based on the type of food chosen.

This definition of the amount of food needed during an event will vary depending on the type of food that an organization chooses to serve. The individual organizing the event is expected to put together a plan with Dining Services to determine what food items will be served at their events and the appropriate amounts based on the foods chosen. Once the plan is finalized with Dining Services, the Social Host of the event should attach the function sheet provided by Dining Services to their Event Registration form.

Food Choices

When organizing an event with alcohol there are two categories of food types that can be served at an event; substantial food options (provided by Dining Services) and pre-packaged items (purchased by the event host). See below for an explanation of how these options can be combined to meet the requirements.

Substantial Food Options (provided by Dining Services)

  • 3 foot sub sandwiches
  • Pizza
  • Chili (soups)
  • Cheese and cracker tray
  • Hot/Cold hor d'oeuvres (e.g. pigs in a blanket)

Additional substantial food options are available on the Dining Services website in their online catering guide.

Approved List of Pre-Packaged Items

Due to the New York State Health code certain restrictions are placed the service of food. Where food is provided from and the manner in which this food is served is affected by the health code, which is why Dining Services is required to provide food for the majority of events on campus. However, it is possible for organizations to provide pre-packaged items at their events as long as it meets health code standards. 

When choosing these items it is important to know that term pre-packaged is defined as items that are prepared commercially, wrapped beforehand and ready for sale in a grocery/food store. Items that are made by an individual do not meet this definition. Oftentimes locally made items do not meet the standard as well and it is always important to check with Dining Services if you are unsure. 

List of Pre-Approved Pre-Packaged Items that for groups to serve at events.

  • Chips, pretzels, shelled nuts, popcorn, crackers
  • Pre-packaged cheese (string cheese, brie, etc)
  • Hummus and pita bread
  • Salsas/Dips

When providing these items it is preferable that the items are individually packaged in order to meet the health code. However, if individually packaged items are not available, large packages of the food may be served by providing serving utensils for guests to use.

If a social host/organization chooses to serve items not listed here, then the responsibility, or liability, associated with providing food to others and hosting an event will increase.

Choosing What Food to Serve

When organizing an event with alcohol there are two options on how to provide food at the event that meet the requirements set by the alcohol policy.

Option A

The social host/organization can decide to provide only substantial food options provided by Dining Services. In this case, the social host/organization would be required to provide 3-4 food choices from the list. This number will vary depending on the specific types of food that are being chosen.

Option B

The social host/organization can decide to provide a combination of substantial food options provided by Dining Services and pre-packaged items from the pre-approved list. In this case, the social host/organization would be required to provide 2 substantial food items and 2 pre-packaged food choices. The individual coordinating the food plan for the event will be expected to provide Dining Services with the two pre-packaged items that will be served to include on the function sheet for their event. Without this information, the food plan for the event will not be complete and will affect the approval of the event registration form.