Mayor Pugh Announces Plan to Reduce Wasted Food in Baltimore and Feed More Residents in Need

Baltimore Is the Second City to Pilot NRDC & Rockefeller Foundation Initiative to Cut Municipal Food Waste

BALTIMORE – Mayor Catherine E. Pugh today released the Baltimore Food Waste Recovery Strategy, which aims to reduce food waste, rescue food for those in need, and help build a local economy through composting. Mayor Pugh also announced that the city will partner with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), with funding from The Rockefeller Foundation, to put the plan into action.

“Locally based composting keeps dollars in the community, promotes strong neighborhoods, cleans and enriches Baltimore’s soil, and, importantly, supports local food production and food security. We’re proud that Baltimore is taking a leadership position in this national conversation on how we can reduce food waste and enhance composting,” said Mayor Catherine E. Pugh. “Being more intentional about food waste and recovery supports Baltimore’s commitment to innovation, expands workforce capacity, and addresses access to healthy affordable food.”

Nationally, food makes up more than 20 percent of trash sent for disposal every year on average. Baltimore creates 430,000 tons of trash annually, the majority of which is incinerated, creating health-harming and climate-changing air pollution. At the same time, nearly one in four Baltimore residents do not have a reliable supply of food.

The Baltimore Food Waste Recovery Strategy sets forth a path for Baltimore City to reduce the amount of food that is lost or discarded by residents and local businesses, boost food donation citywide, and expand community and commercial composting of food scraps. Among other goals, the strategy aims to reduce commercial food waste in Baltimore City by 50 percent and residential food waste by 80 percent by 2040.

“Keeping food waste out of landfills and incinerators is good for our health, environment, the local economy and the city’s bottom line,” said Elizabeth Balkan, Food Waste Director at NRDC. “Baltimore is not only taking steps to deliver these benefits to its residents, but to set a model that cities around the world can follow.”

Together with NRDC, Baltimore City will implement the multifaceted Baltimore Food Waste Recovery Strategy, which includes:

  • Educating residents about food waste and their role in addressing the issue through NRDC’s Save the Food public service campaign with The Ad Council, and complementary community engagement efforts.
  • Encouraging surplus food donation by local businesses and engaging public health inspectors and other stakeholders to address the food rescue resources gap. 
  • Encouraging and incentivizing residents and businesses to recycle and compost organics and food scraps.

“The City of Baltimore is taking an important step today to advance a more sustainable food system for its people,” said Devon Klatell, Senior Associate Director and Food Initiative Lead at The Rockefeller Foundation. “This work by NRDC and the City will help ensure the people of Baltimore have an efficient supply of food and benefit from a resilient and healthy food system. It’s just one more way the City of Baltimore is establishing itself as a national leader on food waste.”

Up to 40 percent of the U.S. food supply—worth $218 billion—goes uneaten each year. Discarded food costs the average family of four $1,800 annually and takes an enormous environmental toll in terms of the water, energy, agricultural chemicals and labor that go to waste.

Last fall, NRDC, with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, released a pair of reports that looked at food waste and food rescue potential in three major U.S. cities. The study found that in these three cities, more than two-thirds of all food discarded in people’s homes was potentially edible, and up to 68 million additional meals annually could potentially be donated to people in need in these communities.

Baltimore joins Denver in partnering with NRDC and The Rockefeller Foundation as part of their Food Matters project, which aims to work with cities around the country to tackle food waste at the local level.



The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.


The Rockefeller Foundation’s mission has been to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world for more than 100 years. Together with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation strives to catalyze and scale transformative innovations, create unlikely partnerships that span sectors, and take risks others cannot – or will not. For more information, please visit

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