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Temporary Food Permits FAQ

Temporary food permits are required for events where foods are made available to the public. These permits are required in order to ensure that organizations and businesses understand the hazards involved in food preparation and service, and understand how to provide properly prepared, safe food.

Properly prepared and served foods will help prevent a foodborne illness at a Temporary Event. The amount of food preparation must be limited to cook-and-serve for temporary food service permits.

Frequently Asked Questions

Fact Sheets for Temporary Food Service (PDF)

Why are Temporary Food Service Permits required?

Temporary Food Service Permits are required by the New York State Sanitary Code, Part 14-2. When you apply for a permit to serve food, the Division of Environmental Health provides education to help you understand how to provide safe food at your event.

What is a foodborne illness?

A food-related illness may occur as a result of poor food preparation and service practices. One or many people may become ill, require hospitalization and possibly die as a result of a food-related illnesses. Older people and people with other illnesses may become severely ill when they eat food that has been contaminated, mishandled or improperly prepared and/or stored.

What is a Temporary Food Establishment?

A Temporary Food Establishment is one that serves food to the public at a fixed location for no more than fourteen (14) consecutive days duration. If the event is advertised to the public (with flyers, banners, newspaper articles, list servs, or any other means) a temporary food permit is required. The requirements do not change if the food is being sold for profit or provided at no charge.

What events require temporary food permits?

Individuals or groups planning to hold events that are open to the public must obtain a permit. The Tompkins County Health Department requires that a temporary permit be obtained for each food booth operating during an event. When you hire a caterer, he/she must have a permit to operate in Tompkins County (either a temporary permit or a restaurant permit with catering).

The following are examples of events that typically require permits:
  • A fair, carnival, music event, or circus
  • Community celebrations
  • Public exhibitions
  • Sports events
  • Church events held off church property serving food to the public (Churches serving to the public more than once a week are required to obtain a year-round permit).
  • Fundraisers
  • Craft fairs
  • Open houses

Are there any events that DO NOT require temporary food permits?

Your event is not considered a temporary food service if the food is prepared or provided by members of a group for members of the group and their invited guests, such as:

  • A meeting or an event for a private or charitable organization, association, a fraternal group, or club
  • An activity in a church or other religious congregation for members
  • A gathering such as a party, picnic or potluck where food is shared.
  • Private weddings that do their own food preparation

Again, this only applies to the gathering if it is private. Any public advertisement of an event will mean a permit is required.

What about a bake sale?

A bake sale is not considered a temporary event as long as only dry baked goods, such as cookies, brownies, and cake, are offered. If you are offering baked goods with cream toppings, fillings, or pumpkin pie, a temporary permit is required.

What about a “potluck dinner”?

Please download “Keeping Potluck Meals Safe” for guidelines and important information. Call EH if you have any questions: 607-274-6688.

How do I get a permit?

Click here for a permit application.
If you have questions, please call us at 607-274-6688.

When should I submit an application?

An application for a temporary food establishment permit must be submitted at least two weeks prior to your event to allow time for processing of the permit. All fees must be paid prior to a permit being issued. There is no permit fee for not-for-profit organizations and/or groups.

Permitting Process Required to Operate a Temporary Food Establishment