Do I Need a Permit to Sell Food for a Fundraiser?

If you are hosting a bake sale or charity event where food will be available, you might be wondering, “Do I need a permit to sell food for a fundraiser?”

The short answer? Maybe.

Most state food laws have exceptions for non-profit fundraisers like bake sales and lemonade stands. However, if you intend to sell food at a fundraising event, you may need to apply for a temporary food service permit. The specific type of permit you need often depends on the type, frequency, and location of your event. For instance, if you plan to only serve prepackaged foods, the requirements may be different compared to if you are preparing and cooking the food on-site.

If an established restaurant is donating catering for the event, a temporary food service permit may not be necessary.

Permitting requirements for fundraisers

do I need a permit to sell food for a fundraiser

Consider the following when you apply for a permit:

1. The type of food you are selling:
Riskier foods that require refrigeration (like meat or dairy products) pose safety concerns.

2. How you intend to prepare and serve the food:
Will you be cooking on-site or will the food be prepared beforehand? Each has different safety considerations.

3. The location and duration of your fundraiser:
Temporary venues face scrutiny over food safety and sanitation. The length of the event also influences the type of permit you require.

How to apply for a permit to sell food for a fundraiser

Typically, to apply for a temporary food permit, you need to fill some forms and in some instances, pay a fee. It may take a few weeks to process, so it’s advisable to start the process early. You may also need to provide detailed plans about your event: the type of food, how it will be prepared, stored and served, information about the equipment used, and the cleanliness protocols.

What happens if you sell food without a permit?

lemonade stand fundraiser

While it might seem tempting to sidestep this often complicated procedure, the penalties can be severe, and it’s not recommended. You could face hefty fines, and the authorities could shut down your event. Moreover, selling food without the required permits might lead to public health risks, legal battles, or damage the reputation of your fundraiser or organization.

Navigating the process of obtaining a permit to sell food at a fundraiser may be tedious but is invariably essential for the success of your event. Remember, it’s always better to be safe, legal, and prepared.

Be sure to look to your state or county health department for guidance.

Need some creative food fundraiser ideas? Check out our blog!