Baltimore is one of two pilot cities across the nation picked for a new food waste management initiative. (Catherine Rentz / Baltimore Sun video)

Baltimore is one of two pilot cities across the nation picked for a new food waste management initiative in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Rockefeller Foundation.

On Wednesday, Mayor Catherine Pugh and members of the Office of Sustainability announced the initiative, which aims to prevent food waste through better management programs and expanded composting.


“For too many of our neighborhoods, healthy and affordable food is still out of reach,” Pugh said. “Composting supports local food production and food security.”

Anne Draddy, coordinator with the Baltimore Office of Sustainability, said the initiative has three main goals.

La Cuchara employees caught on camera dumping tomatoes in Jones Falls

Woodberry restaurant La Cuchara was caught on camera dumping leftover tomatoes into the Jones Fall watershed Sunday after its annual Tomatina festival.

The first is to reduce food waste, which Draddy said they will be working on over the next few months through the Natural Resources Defense Council’s “Save the Food” educational campaign.

The second is to further encourage food recovery by working with restaurants and other business to transfer unused food to those who need it.

The third is better composting. Draddy said the city will work with restaurants, residents and potentially farmers markets to improve composting. She said they would like to develop a food composting facility in Baltimore that could help cultivate the “black gold,” as compost is sometimes called, for the city’s growing urban farming businesses.

The initiative could help restaurants like La Cuchara avoid polluting Baltimore’s waterways with food waste. Workers from the restaurant were caught on camera dumping leftover tomatoes into the Jones Falls watershed on Sunday after its Tomatina festival.

Ben Lefenfeld, La Cuchara’s general manager, said that employees dumped leftover tomatoes in the Jones Falls after someone else filled their dumpster with trash, leaving no room to dispose of the tomatoes.

In Maryland, rescuing food that might otherwise be wasted

A growing group of activists, government agencies, nonprofits and private companies have joined the food recovery movement. Their shared mission is to cut down on food waste, and divert what previously was thrown away to feed those who might otherwise eat less nutritiously — or go hungry.

Draddy wasn’t familiar with the incident, but said there are several food waste haulers that could have helped the restaurant take food away for a fee. She said this initiative will help educate restaurants among other businesses about how to better deal with such food waste.

The initiative helps implement the longer-term food waste and recovery strategy that Pugh also announced on Wednesday. One of the goals of the strategy is to reduce commercial food waste in Baltimore by 50 percent and residential food waste by 80 percent by 2040.

The $200,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation goes to fund an employee who will be dedicated to implementing the initiative in Baltimore. Denver is the other city in the “Food Matters” pilot project.