RIDE Awards Nearly $2.7 Million in “Get the Foam Out” Grants to Eliminate Styrofoam Waste in Schools

Published on Thursday, May 30, 2024

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green and the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) today announced that after approval by the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education, RIDE is awarding 101 schools from 26 local education agencies (LEAs) with grants totaling nearly $2.7 million as part of RIDE’s recently launched “Get the Foam Out” initiative. The initiative focuses on mitigating the amount of waste by single-use Styrofoam meal trays and diverting food waste from the landfill.   

“A greener Rhode Island is critical for our state’s children to continue to thrive,” said Governor Dan McKee. “The ‘Get the Foam Out’ initiative works to create a more environmentally friendly educational system that limits the use of Styrofoam and lessens the long-term, detrimental impacts of pollution. Thank you to the Council for approving this program.” 

Launched in January 2024 and made possible by RIDE’s School Building Authority (SBA), the initiative is in line with state, agency and legislative priorities and supports schools in complying with the recently-enacted statewide Styrofoam ban, which goes into effect on January 1, 2025. Currently, Rhode Island schools use an estimated 11.5 million single-use Styrofoam meal trays each year. When students throughout the state use and dispose of the trays, it unnecessarily consumes the Central Landfill’s limited disposal capacity. According to the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, at current loading rates, the landfill will reach capacity in 2043. These awards will eliminate over 5 million single-use foam trays and salvage almost 2 million pounds of food waste each year. 

“I am proud to see this initiative move forward,” said Chair of the Board of Education Michael Grey. “Styrofoam waste takes up unneeded space in our landfill and has a detrimental effect on the environment. I am looking forward to seeing the difference that this program makes on ensuring greener schools.” 

“The Council is pleased to approve more than one hundred grant awards for the ‘Get the Foam Out Initiative,’” said Chair of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education Patti DiCenso. “With these awards, schools will be moving forward towards a healthier school environment which in the long term will benefit our natural surroundings. By eliminating Styrofoam waste, we are preserving Rhode Island’s future for generations to come.” 

“Now more than ever, it is critical for students to learn the importance of protecting the environment around them,” said Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. “With this initiative, we are making strides towards a greener Rhode Island for our children and their families by eliminating the amount of single-use service ware disposed of on a daily basis in our schools. I am grateful for the continued collaboration with state, school and community leaders to ensure this becomes a reality, and am thankful for the Council’s approval of the grants.” 

LEAs may use funds received through the “Get the Foam Out” initiative in a variety of ways, including the purchase and installation of new ware washing facilities, the remediation of current ware washing facilities, transitions to compostable service ware and the purchase of reusable service ware. Funds may also be used to support the design and installation of compost hauling agreements within school kitchens and cafeterias. Priority for the grants was given to LEAs that will have the highest level of waste diversion from the Central Landfill.  

The grants come as the U.S. Department of Education announced five Rhode Island school communities as Green Ribbon Award winners, including the Chariho Regional School District, D'Abate and Spaziano elementary schools in Providence, Garden City Elementary School in Cranston, and Dunn’s Corners Elementary School in Westerly. Green Ribbon School designation is awarded to schools or districts who demonstrate an excellence in sustainability education. Read more about the Rhode Island award winners here.  

The following LEAs received grant awards:  

  • Beacon Charter:  $23,198 
  • Blackstone Academy: $38,300 
  • Bristol-Warren: $88,037 
  • Burrillville: $72,195 
  • Central Falls: $381,500 
  • Charette Charter: $15,550 
  • Chariho: $68,684 
  • Compass School: $22,398 
  • Cumberland: $23,015 
  • East Greenwich: $145,000 
  • Johnston: $57,327 
  • Lincoln: $446,216 
  • Little Compton: $75,950 
  • Middletown: $100,380 
  • Narragansett: $13,536 
  • Newport: $9,040 
  • North Kingstown: $165,662 
  • North Providence: $74,000 
  • Nuestro Mundo: $44,225 
  • Providence: $348,996 
  • RI School for Deaf: $163,001 
  • Scituate: $15,996 
  • Smithfield: $167,040 
  • South Kingstown: $7,654 
  • Tiverton: $85,230 
  • Westerly: $9,663  

For more information on the “Get the Foam Out” initiative and other school sustainability resources, visit www.ride.ri.gov/child-nutrition/nutrition-programs.