Baltimore has announced a pilot initiative, the Baltimore Food Waste Recovery Strategy, which commits to reducing food waste, rescuing edible food for the hungry and creating a more robust market for composting in Baltimore. The first piece will come through a public education campaign called “Save the Food.” Anne Draddy, the city’s sustainability coordinator, said at a press conference at City Hall this morning that a couple billboards with that slogan are already up, but the campaign, a partnership with The Ad Council, will expand over the next few months. “That will be educating residents on what they can do around food waste and what their role is in that,” she said.

For recovery, the city will expand its ongoing work with restaurants, grocery stores, hotels and markets to avoid tossing edible food that could be donated to communities in need. That will also include engaging public health inspectors and stakeholders to help with the effort. Around 24 percent of Baltimoreans live in impoverished areas without access to healthy food, according to research by the city and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; collecting edible food to serve those places is one of the goals of the announced strategy.

And for composting, Baltimore plans to expand the practice by testing pilots and incentive programs with neighborhoods, businesses, farmer’s markets and others to collect more tossed food that can be converted into nutrient-rich soil for gardens. The city could sell the so-called black gold or distribute it to its growing urban farming community, Draddy suggested.

At present, much of that food goes to landfills and eventually to the infamous BRESCO trash incinerator off of I-95, with food accounting for 20 percent of Baltimore’s trash each year, according to the National Resources Defense Council. Draddy said the Office of Sustainability hopes to site a designated food-composting facility in the city within the next two years.

More broadly, the strategy aims to cut the city’s commercial food waste in half and reduce residential food waste by 80 percent by 2040. “This takes a long view,” said Andy Cook, an environmental planner with the Baltimore Office of Sustainability. He later added: “We recognize that we’re not gonna solve this problem overnight, but there’s a lot of things that we can do in the short term.”

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