Hennepin County has grants for K-12 schools to start or improve programs to reduce waste and keep recycling and organic materials, including food and non-recyclable paper, out of the trash.
Eligible organizations include public and non-public K-12 schools in Hennepin County. Grant funding can be used to purchase equipment and supplies and staff time for project implementation.
Applications are being accepted for 2023 school waste reduction and recycling grants.
Schools with at least 50% of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch may apply for grants of up to $25,000 until 4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15.
All schools within the county (regardless of free and reduced lunch percentage) may apply for grants of up to $15,000 beginning Monday, April 3 until Wednesday, November 15, 2023, or until the annual program budget is exhausted, whichever occurs first.
Grant funding can be used to fund staff time for project implementation as well as to purchase equipment and supplies including:
- Recycling and organics recycling containers
- Sorting stations
- Reusable food service ware
- Bulk condiment dispensers
Review the grant guidelines (PDF) for more information about the program, eligible project activities and allowable expenses.
How to apply
- Review the grant guidelines (PDF)
- For application materials, submit a school recycling and waste reduction inquiry form.
Virtual information meetings are a chance to find out more about the grant program, hear about and share project ideas, understand the application process, and get questions answered.
Meetings will be held virtually via Zoom:
You are encouraged to contact the program manager, Kira Berglund, to discuss project ideas at email@example.com or 612-596-1498.
Grant program evaluation and changes
In 2022, county staff evaluated the school recycling grant program. We gathered feedback from school staff, volunteers and students through surveys, phone interviews and an online feedback session. We also analyzed the results and reach of past grant projects. Based on our findings, we made some updates to the program and the eligible expenses.
We adjusted eligibility requirements for the grant to help address disparities for students and schools. The initial round of grant funding will only be open to schools where 50% or more students qualify for free or reduced lunch to apply until March 15. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis from any K-12 schools from April 3 through November 15, or until the annual program budget is exhausted, whichever occurs first.
Organics program changes
An additional requirement has been added to apply for organics program funding in a cafeteria to prevent contamination in the organics. To receive funding to start collecting organics in a cafeteria in 2023, schools:
- Must serve food in bulk using reusable or compostable food ware.
- Cannot provide foods in individual plastic wrappers, plastic utensils, or condiment packets.
Eligible expenses changes
Funding staff time
Many school representatives listed staff capacity as one of the top barriers to taking on a grant project in their school. To address this barrier, the grant program will now fund staff time for project implementation (up to 75% of the total grant amount).
Equipment and installation funding
Dishwasher installation costs have been added as an eligible expense to remove the cost barrier of installation.
Refrigerator funding has increased from $500 to $1,000 per school/cafeteria. Funded fridges are used to store milk or other perishable items on a sharing table or to store food and beverages prior to donation. This change was made due to industry research that showed most fridges that fit our criteria start at around $1,000.
Expenses that are no longer funded
The following expenses will not be funded through the grant program in 2023. The funds that previously went to these items will go to other new expenses, like staff time.
- Water bottle fillers will not be funded in 2023. There are other grant programs that cover water bottle fillers, and they are not tied as directly to waste reduction as other items funded in the grant program.
- Compostable food ware to replace disposable food ware will not be funded in 2023. This change was made because reusable food ware is preferred and to avoid cost barriers in maintaining inventory of compostable food ware when grant funding ends.