Community Composting Key In Baltimore’s Food Waste Strategy

June 22, 2020 | Community Composting, Food Waste

Community Composting Key In Baltimore’s Food Waste Strategy


The City of Baltimore, Maryland’s Food Waste & Recovery Strategy aims to reduce commercial food waste in Baltimore City by 50% and residential food waste by 80% by 2040. Baltimore generates 430,000 tons of trash annually, and the majority is incinerated, contributing to the city’s high asthma rate. At the same time, nearly one in four Baltimore residents does not have a reliable supply of food, notes the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), more than twice the national average.

Recognizing the “incredible opportunity” in Baltimore, NRDC and The Rockefeller Foundation selected the city as one of two model cities for its Food Matters Project (the other is Denver). Baltimore City, NRDC, and The Rockefeller Foundation announced their partnership in September 2018. Another key collaborator has been the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), which for years, laid the groundwork for advancing local composting in the city and helped encourage NRDC to select Baltimore. In announcing its partnership with the Food Matters Project, Baltimore City also released its Baltimore’s Food Waste & Recovery Strategy. The strategy, written in partnership with ILSR, includes:

  • Educating residents about food waste and their role in reducing it through NRDC’s Save the Food public service campaign and complementary community engagement efforts;
  • Encouraging surplus food donation by local businesses and engaging public health inspectors and other stakeholders to increase food donation; and
  • Encouraging and incentivizing residents and businesses to recycle and compost organics and food scraps; and
  • Supporting creation of community composting locations and providing compost training programs with equitable geographic distribution and affordability.

Community composting initiatives in Baltimore are highlighted in a new video released by NRDC. Featured are the Baltimore Compost Collective, a youth-engaged food scrap collection and composting enterprise started by ILSR, and Whitelock Community Farm (photo of Kimberly Raikes, Whitelock Community Farm in photo at top), which composts food scraps at its farm. With funding support from NRDC and the help of ILSR and ILSR’s Neighborhood Soil Rebuilders Composter Train-the-Trainer program, the City of Baltimore is building a network of community composting sites across the city.

NRDC is expanding its Food Matters initiatives in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions. The goal of this approach is to catalyze innovation to curtail food waste at a regional level; work with “hub” cities on collaborative strategy development and shared learning; and create a network of support for hub cities in a common region to advance progress on the ground, leverage shared knowledge, and overcome hurdles more quickly. In collaboration with the City of Baltimore, NRDC’s plan is to work with about 5 cities in the Mid-Atlantic region. A similar initiative in the Southeast will include the City of Nashville, where NRDC and local collaborators have implemented policies and programs to reduce food waste. About 5 cities will be selected in that region as well. NRDC solicited applications from cities in both regions in the spring. Selected hub cities will be announced in a few weeks.


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