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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

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Food Purchasing Guidelines for City Staff who host meetings

When providing food for the public, we’re literally “putting our money where our mouth is.” These best practices help us walk our talk by supporting local businesses, especially entrepreneurs of color; choosing foods that are healthy for people and the planet; and avoiding wasted food and unnecessary packaging.

image of food guidlines

Choosing a vendor

Look for a caterer on the preferred vendor list. If you’d prefer to use another vendor, ask them to follow the best practices below. Please email about getting them certified so we can add them to the preferred vendor list.

Ordering food

Ask for vegetarian or vegan recommendations. Aim for vegetables and whole grains as the main and dairy and meat as optional add-ons.
Ex. Falafel sandwiches and vegetarian tamales, burritos and tacos are all flavorful, filling meals.

Avoid processed foods, especially foods with added salt, sugars, and fats.
Ex. Instead of potato chips and onion dip, offer whole grain crackers, carrots and hummus. Instead of muffins and bagels, offer fruit and yogurt.

Request smaller portion sizes that allow people to choose the amount of food that’s right for them. This minimizes food waste and increases options for attendees.
Ex: Ask for sandwiches to be cut in half and served on a platter. Choose bite-sized desserts or cut large cookies into quarters.

Offer culturally-appropriate food. Be thoughtful about who will be attending your meeting and what their dietary needs or cultural food preferences might be. Ask in advance if possible.

Ask your vendor if they can deliver by bike or electric vehicle.

Ask your vendor if there are options to use locally grown, seasonal, and organic foods.

Ordering beverages

Don’t purchase bottled water, unless there’s no way to provide tap water in pitchers.

Choose coffee and tea vendors who offer reusable carafes, sustainably-grown products and bulk cream and sugar.

Avoid beverages with added sugar.

Avoid packaging waste

Ask for family style serving rather than individually packaged items, whenever possible.
Ex. Avoid “boxed lunches” where every item is individually wrapped. Sandwiches, fruit and cookies can all be served on platters, allowing people to choose what they want and avoiding packaging waste.

Tell the caterer what not to bring. Many caterers automatically send disposable utensils, napkins, etc. Let them know what you’ll be providing (dishware, glasses, mugs) and request they make a note to only bring what you need (napkins).
Ex. When ordering coffee, if you have mugs and spoons, tell the vendor not to bring cups and stir sticks.

Set-up and clean-up

Use durable dishware whenever possible. If you can’t use bureau-provided dishware, ask your caterer about providing and picking up “real” dishware.

Provide tap water in pitchers.

Recycle any cans or bottles post-event, and compost inedible leftovers.

Why follow these best practices?

The City’s Climate Action Plan and sustainable purchasing policy call for food purchasing guidelines that promote plant-based diets and nutritious, minimally processed foods for public meetings, events, and facilities.

Purchasing from local companies keeps taxpayer dollars within our community and supports the local economy.

More about Preferred Vendors

Businesses on the list of preferred vendors have been certified by the City of Portland's Sustainability at Work program. We are actively seeking emerging businesses and businesses owned by women and entrepreneurs of color in order to create a list that reflects the diversity of our city.

Have a favorite caterer that’s not on the list?
Contact The Sustainability at Work staff can work with the business to get it certified (it’s free!) and on the list.

Please contact the Sustainable City Government program at