Food and Beverage Purchasing

For details about this credit, including the criteria, reporting timeframe, applicability, scoring, and more, please review the full credit language:

Data Accuracy Video

Frequently Asked Questions

How has this credit changed between STARS 2.1 to 2.2?

Substantive changes have been made to this credit. Whereas STARS 2.1 recognized local, community-based products that may or may not have been sustainably produced, the new version only recognizes products that are sustainably or ethically produced. A comprehensive list of differences can be found in the 2.2 Summary of changes. In addition, see the FAQs about the new version.

What type of food and beverage inventory is required for this credit?

This credit requires one of the following:

  • A completed STARS Food and Beverage Purchasing Inventory (see Templates & Tools, below)
  • An alternative inventory that includes all of the following information for each product:
    • Product name, label, or brand
    • Product description/type
    • Recognized sustainability standard met (e.g., third party certification or ecolabel)

A common mistake is omitting or not providing enough detail to justify each’s product’s inclusion (e.g., how a product meets all of the size, ownership, and distance criteria for Local & Community Based products under v.2.1).

Do local food purchases count for this credit?


A local product must be sustainably/ethically produced or plant-based to qualify. A product no longer qualifies solely on the basis of its point of origin. See FAQs about the new version for more information.


A product must be local AND community based, OR third-party certified to count. See definitions on 2-page classification guide. A common issue is for institutions to report on their own standards for “local,” often overlooking the community-based requirement.

How can I determine if more than half of the ingredients in a product meet the criteria?

The first question to ask is: Do you have good reason to believe this product could qualify for the STARS credit? For example:

  • Does the product carry a third party certification?
  • Is the product advertised as “locally grown” or “sustainable”?
  • Have dining staff suggested that the product may qualify?

As an example, bread from a local bakery is unlikely to qualify unless the bakery is making some kind of sustainability claim about the product, such as “organic” or “locally grown flour”. Instead of spending a lot of time investigating products that don’t have any apparent sustainability attributes, it is much more efficient to focus on products that have sustainability claims and verify that those claims meet the STARS criteria.

Can purchases of non-edible food accessory products be counted?

No. Purchases of non-edible food accessory products should not be included in your calculations.

Templates & Tools



Example Responses


  • Carleton College –  Good descriptive detail provided under the credit with Real Food Calculator inventory uploaded. Reporting is managed by students.
  • Elon University – Good example of a simplified inventory that meets minimum criteria.
  • Green Mountain College – Great description of sustainable food purchasing program. Justification of products counted in inventory is clear and detailed.
  • Haverford CollegeReporting example of an institution using the Real Food Calculator food inventory.
  • Luther CollegeStrong program in purchasing local & community based foods. Inventory follows more stringent criteria than what is required for STARS. Includes separate tab for Other Sustainability Attributes.
  • Oregon State University – Good reporting example with clear methodology; uses the STARS Food & Beverage inventory and includes a full year of data.
  • University of New Hampshire – Inventory goes above and beyond minimum criteria by including itemized expenditures on sustainable food purchases.
  • University of Pittsburgh – Thorough inventory that includes clear and concise information on third-party certifications and justification for the local and community based classification.
  • University of Vermont – Inventory meets credit criteria and is a good example of use of Real Food Challenge inventory. Students are involved in the food purchasing and assessment process.
  • University of Wisconsin-River Falls – Good reporting example using STARS inventory template. Includes a full year of data.
  • Vassar College – Good descriptive information provided, clear and concise inventory. All beef and eggs purchased on campus are third party certified Humane.

Common Issues Identified During Review

  • Numeric outlier – Reporting a sustainably or ethically produced percentage of 20% or more.  If a higher percentage is reported, check closely for the issues below (particularly counting items that do not meet the Version 2.2 guidelines.  
  • Numeric outlier – Reporting a plant-based foods percentage of 80% or more. If a higher percentage is reported, this may indicate inconsistency in how plant-based foods are defined and/or calculated.
  • For transparency and to help ensure comparability, a completed STARS Food and Beverage Purchasing Inventory template or equivalent inventory must be provided to document purchases that qualify as sustainably or ethically produced. The inventory must justify each product’s inclusion and include, at minimum: Product name, label, or brand; Product description/type; Recognized sustainability standard met (e.g., third party certification or ecolabel). 
  • Sampling – Institutions must track food and beverage purchases for a 12-month consecutive period or use a representative sample that includes data from a full academic term or similar period. When using samples, institutions must accommodate for seasonal and other variations in food and beverage availability and purchasing. The percentage must include total food and beverage expenditures. All product categories and food service providers should be included in the total food and beverage expenditures figure.
  • Purchases of non-edible food accessory products should not be included in scoring calculations. If such items are included in the food inventory, clarification that they have not been counted should be provided.

Did you find this article helpful?