Hosting an event with food? You may need a permit.


UW students or personnel hosting or sponsoring an event at a UW location where food will be served, sold, or given away, may need to apply for a Temporary Food Service Permit from UW Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S).

An EH&S Temporary Food Service Permit is required for food service if the event is at a UW location in Bothell, Seattle or Tacoma and meets any of the following conditions:

  • The event is sponsored by a UW department or group, including registered student organizations; or
  • The event is open to the public or UW campus community (students, faculty, staff), or
  • Event information was advertised in public media (e.g., posters, flyers, social media) or wider campus communications (e.g., email, word of mouth); or
  • The event is sponsored by a non-UW group and UW campus community members are invited to attend.

If an EH&S Temporary Food Service Permit is required, organizers must apply at least 2 weeks prior to the event date. EH&S cannot guarantee review of applications submitted within a shorter time frame.

An EH&S Temporary Food Service Permit is not required if any of the following exceptions are true.

  • The event is not held on UW property. Check with your event site regarding specific local health department requirements for permits.
  • The event is invitation only and private (hosted and attended by a non-UW group). This may include food service for weddings, birthdays, funerals, or external company retreats at UW venues, where the campus community is not invited and will not attend.
  • The event is limited to members of a small (50 people or less), closed campus community group (e.g., a class, a lab group, an RSO).
  • The only food served will be non-perishable, commercially pre-packaged, ready-to-eat foods (e.g., prepackaged chips, candy, individually packaged baked goods, pasteurized, bottled or canned beverages) from a licensed and permitted food establishment or food processing plant.
  • The only food served will be individually prepackaged frozen confections (e.g., ice cream cones or popsicles in their original packaging) from a licensed food business or food processing plant.
  • The only food served is provided by food establishments with current EH&S-issued operating permits (e.g., UW Housing & Food Services, Bay Laurel Catering, UWMC Plaza Café).

Temporary Food Service Permit application is a Washington state regulatory requirement when serving foods at public or campus community events. The permit application process allows EH&S to evaluate the safety of the food source, assess food preparation steps, handling, and storage to protect health and prevent foodborne illness.

During application review, EH&S may review a vendor or caterer’s operating permit from the local health department, operating history and inspection history, and require individuals handling food, food equipment or utensils to have current food worker cards

EH&S coordinates with event organizers to ensure the Guidelines for Temporary Food Establishments are followed. In addition, mobile food vendors must follow the requirements in the Mobile Food Unit Focus Sheet.

Even if an EH&S Temporary Food Service Permit is not required, organizers should follow safe food handling practices, including proper handwashing practices, storing food at safe temperatures, limiting food service to a short window of time, and keeping food covered and protected from potential contamination.

University units, departments, and registered student organizations are not allowed to give away or sell food prepared at home (or in a kitchen that has not been approved by EH&S or a local county health jurisdiction) at a temporary food establishment. Event foods must be prepared in and stored in a licensed and permitted kitchen.

Questions? Contact the EH&S Environmental Public Health team.