University of Vermont

Sponsored Project Administration - SPA

217 Waterman Building . 85 South Prospect Street . Burlington, Vermont 05405 . (802) 656-3360

non-travel meals refreshments

Meals, Refreshments and Food Related Items Charged to Sponsored Projects

In most cases, food and food related items charged to a sponsored project is very restrictive. Food costs must meet both UVM's Business Meal, Hospitality and Amenity Policy and Sponsor Regulations.

Budget for these costs in Proposals

Best practice is to always include in grant applications and proposals, where not prohibited, explicit details of events, meetings, seminars and a food related costs in support of those events.

Follow Sponsors Guidelines: Federal Examples

  • NIH Grants Policy Statement, see 7.9.1 Selected Items of Cost -Meals
  • NSF PAPPG, see Proposal Preparation Instructions, Proposal Content, Budget and Budget Justification, Section xiii (b) Meals and Coffee Breaks
  • NIFA Terms and Conditions, see Allowable Costs – Meals
  • Uniform Guidance, See 200.438 Entertainment costs, 200.456 Participant support costs, 200.474 Travel costs, and 200.432- Conferences

Charging Food Related Costs to Sponsored Projects

To charge food items to a federal or non-federal sponsored project, the following must be demonstrated:

  1. The cost must be integral to the goals and objectives of the allowable event as presented in the proposal or proposal budget and funded by the sponsor, otherwise sponsor approval may be required.
  2. The cost must be reasonable, that is, must reflect the action a prudent person would have taken under the circumstances prevailing at the time the cost was incurred.
  3. The cost may not exceed UVM guidelines or amounts specifically stated by sponsors, whichever is less.
  4. The cost is not otherwise prohibited by UVM regulations, sponsor regulations, or under the terms of a specific sponsored project.
  5. In the event of a business meal the following must be demonstrated:
    • The business meals should have been included in the proposal or proposal budget and funded by the sponsor, otherwise sponsor approval may be required.
    • The business meal was integral to the advancement of the project being funded.
    • A clear and compelling reason why the business could only be conducted over a meal.
    • The business meeting must include external participant(s).

Examples of allowable food related costs on sponsored projects

  • Food or refreshments served to research subjects, as described in the approved proposal, budget or protocol.
  • Food or refreshments served at seminars supported by an institutional training grant, where the purpose of the event clearly contributes to the projects training goals.
  • Food or refreshments served at the quarterly advisory committee working meetings of a NIH program project grant where committee members are from all over the country.

Documentation for Sponsored Projects

  1. Consistent with UVM policies, to allow food related costs on a sponsored project, documentation that satisfies the requirements outlined above must be on file and provided to SPA’s Research Finance and Reporting Team.

  2. In addition, to the above for food costs or meals severed at seminars, workshops or meetings, the following documentation must be provided to SPA’s Research Finance and Reporting Team or made available in PeopleSoft:

  • Names of those in attendance, affiliation, and relationship to the activity sponsored project.
  • Time and location of the meeting.
  • Itemized receipts (normally available thru PeopleSoft).

SPA Review

SPA’s Research Finance and Reporting Team will review food related costs charged to sponsored projects to confirm such costs are allowable. Food charges that cannot be demonstrated as allowable cost will need to be removed from the sponsored project.

Account Usage

Using the correct account when charging sponsored projects is important. Business meals, account 60553, should not be confused with travel reimbursement accounts or sponsored provisions account 60557.

  • Example 1: A visiting scientist was included in the grant application to be at UVM for 2-weeks working on the funded research project. The costs associated with hosting the visiting scientist would normally fall into the travel category covering airfare, accommodations and meals. In this scenario, SPA often sees the meal component charged incorrectly as a business meal, which gives the appearance of an unallowable expense.
  • Example 2: A seminar is held, as described in UVM’s institutional training grant. The seminars purpose clearly contributes to the projects training goals. Refreshments and snacks are served, as outlined in the sponsor approved budget. In this scenario, SPA often sees these expenses incorrectly charged as a business meal, rather than correctly coded as a sponsored provision, account 60557.

PeopleSoft Chart of Accounts Overview

For a description of the University’s account codes please refer to the PeopleSoft Chart of Accounts Overview, click Chatfield Values, then Account.  An excel spreadsheet appears and under the Expense Tab you will find account codes and a description for use.


If you have any questions, please contact SPA’s Research Administrators for budgeting assistance and SPA’s Research Finance and Reporting Team for expenditure assistance.

Last updated 10-02-17

Last modified October 02 2017 01:05 PM

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