Hilliard City Schools in 2018 will expand a program that diverts food waste for composting rather than having it sent with other solid waste to a landfill.

The program will be funded in part by a $25,000 grant the district received from the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio, said Stacie Raterman, a district spokeswoman.

It evolved from efforts at individual schools, including Alton Darby Elementary School, where students and staff previously composted food waste, said Cliff Hetzel, director of business for Hilliard City Schools.

Becky Bowers, an art teacher at Alton Darby, said students began composting modest amounts of food waste behind the school 10 years ago.

More recently, students at Alton Darby began a garden-composting club as interest in "green" activities increased at the school, Bowers said.

Last spring, Bowers said, she was made aware that staff members and students at Horizon Elementary School had calculated how many Styrofoam trays the school uses in a year that were destined for the landfill. The district serves about 1 million meals each year to students at all 14 elementary schools.

"Our students even wrote to food-services (personnel) at our district to ask if anything could be done to change it," she said.

Staff members and students at several schools then met with district administrators and applied for the SWACO grant.

Hetzel said the diversion program was piloted at three elementary schools earlier this year: Alton Darby, Britton and Horizon.

Three more elementary schools will be added in January and other schools later in the year, Hetzel said. By the end of the current school year, all 14 elementary schools should have been involved in the program, he said.

The SWACO grant will pay for the cost of having a truck transport the compost, Hetzel said. The district also will pay about $10,000 this year to purchase compostable food trays in lieu of Styrofoam trays, he said.

However, the district will recover some – and perhaps all – of the cost, Hetzel said, through the reduced cost of "pulls," or the number of times the district's solid-waste hauler is required to remove trash from school facilities.

Meanwhile, students will be instructed how to separate food from other solid waste and how to dispose of it.

"The kids are really into being on our 'green' team," Bowers said.

Alton Darby's custodian, Jim Locke, donated his time and talent to build a composting table, she said.

The table has holes cut into it to help sort compostable waste from trash, with containers placed below to collect the different kinds of waste.

"We believe Hilliard is a leader in this effort and hope we can be an example for other districts to follow," Hetzel said.

Depending on the availability of grants and other financial considerations, he said, the program should keep expanding.

"We hope to have it in all of our schools in three to five years," Hetzel said.