Skip to main content

Catering Policy

This policy is to serve as a guide on catering for the Swarthmore College community to ensure the health, safety, and sustainability interests of the College. Members of Swarthmore College Campus Community are expected to abide by and respect the guidelines and standards set forth by this policy. This policy applies to any campus event where food and beverage costs are greater than $250. As a part of this policy, you must go through college catering first to see if they are available to service your event. If college catering is not available to provide service for your event they may grant an exception to use one of our approved outside caterers. Events with budgets below $250 are exempt from this policy. 

College Catering, a division of Swarthmore Dining,  is responsible  for managing requests for events where food is being served on campus. Interested parties should develop a budget for their event and consult with the Catering Manager regarding their best options. Please visit the main catering webpage for more information on service options and ordering procedures.

Budget Threshold | Approved Vendors Policy | Exemptions from Vendor Policy | Alcohol Policy | Purchasing Policies | Payment Method

$250 Budget Threshold

This policy only applies to events where food is served with an estimated cost that is greater than $250. The dollar limit will be subject to change each fiscal year. Standard purchasing policies apply for such events and that one uses the Green Events Guidelines to ensure your event meets the College’s sustainability initiatives. 

Third Party Vendors Policy

If  College Catering cannot accommodate your request for services, the College asks that you choose an outside caterer from the approved third-party vendor list. These vendors meet all and College health and safety standards, and include several women and minority owned businesses from the surrounding community.  Please be aware that if you do not follow these guidelines when hiring a third-party vendor, there is a chance your reimbursement may be denied. If this is a repeat occurrence, it may also result in a loss of your purchase card privileges.

Please contact Events Management at for the full list of vetted and approved caterers and more details on our approval process. You may also request the addition of a vendor to our third party vendors list, following the instructions below.

Requesting An Addition to the Approved Vendors List

Third party vendors may be added to the College's Approved Third Party Vendors list by request. To add a caterer to the list of Approved Third Party Vendors, please submit the following information to Events Management at Please allow for six weeks for the completion of the approval process. Authorized caterers will be subject to the following requirements. Note that items 1, 2, 5, 9, 10, and 11 are required for one-time orders.

  1. Certificate of Insurance in the amount of $1,000,000 if no alcohol is served, $2,000,000 if alcohol is being served, submitted annually
  2. W-9 form
  3. Supplier classifier forms
  4. Pennsylvania Retail Food Facility License, or state equivalent State Health inspection report
  5. Confirmation that at least one employee at event location will have ServeSafe Manager Certification
  6. Met Purchasing Requirements
  7. Indemnification agreement
  8. Contract agreeing to full service of the event
  9. Dietary/allergen information of all foods and beverages will be available to the event organizer
  10. Supporting sustainability interests of Swarthmore College
  11. Must be in good standing with the Swarthmore College 

Exemptions from Third Party Vendor Policy

The following events are exempt from the third party vendor policy outlined above.

Inn at Swarthmore

If you hold an event at the Inn at Swarthmore you may use their facilities and catering services without prior approval from Events Management or Swarthmore Dining. 

Standing Group Meetings

Regularly-scheduled group-meetings that are under the threshold amount and permit self-catering so long as members receive proper disclosure of its production site and ingredients. All food safety requirements and purchasing policies as described in section II must be followed. Please be mindful of campus spaces that have food-restrictions. It is important to note that group meetings where food is served should be returned to the previous setup and be cleaned up after use. 

“Potluck” Events and food and beverage donations

Events where attendees are preparing the food (such as a “potluck” event) or receiving donated food or beverage must adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Event space must be reserved on SwatCentral.
  • Hosts must submit this waiver form prior to the event for approval.
  • Prepared food cannot be sold or used to acquire donations.
  • Must follow the Green Events Guidelines
  • It is recommended that major allergens are listed for dishes:
    • Dairy
    • Eggs
    • Wheat
    • Soy
    • Peanuts and treenuts
    • Fish and shellfish
  • Swarthmore College staff or faculty members will oversee the event and food handling.
  • Groups must properly clean after their event.

Alcohol Policy

For events where alcohol is served, organizers must comply with all Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board regulations, and complete the following form for Alcohol Registration and Agreement Form for Faculty and Staff (faculty and staff) or Alcohol Permit Request Form for students (students).  For additional informations, visit:  

Purchasing Policies for Events, Celebrations, and Meals

Departmental Banquets or Functions   

Many departments host events to celebrate the end of the year, such as recognition of graduating seniors or completion of a major project. Such gatherings are permitted to be expensed given that they mark a significant accomplishment that was of benefit to the College and they should not be used for birthdays, baby showers, etc. A campus reception to welcome a new employee or in honor of a retiree or staff departure is acceptable. Such gatherings should be hosted and approved by a President’s Staff member and should be of modest cost.  

Departmental Holiday Meals 

The College hosts a small number of official holiday gatherings meant to recognize the contributions of staff and faculty. Other departmental gatherings that are purely social in nature must be paid by and with personal funds.  

Payment Method

All catering arrangements which include services rendered on campus (e.g. servers/bartenders, etc.), and/or those totaling over $2,500 must be paid via check through Accounts Payable. A purchase order may also be issued in these instances; please contact the Purchasing Office for further assistance with purchase orders. PCards may only be used when the purchase is strictly for food and not additional services and under $2,500, unless the department is granted prior approval by the Purchasing Office.

For more information on the College's purchasing policies, please visit the Purchasing Office site.