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Keyword: grocery savings

By Jeanette Garcia Polasky, Communications Specialist, Baltimore County Department of Public Works

Let’s begin this piece with a simple exercise. I want you to imagine going to the grocery store and purchasing the following items:

A grocery list.

 Like this grocery list design? Download it here.

Now visualize yourself loading all that food into your grocery-getter, only to drive straight to the local landfill, pop the trunk and empty it into a trash roll-off at the drop-off center. Wait, what?

That’s ridiculous, you say? You would never do that, you say? Oh, really?

Well, perhaps not so directly, but statistically speaking, it’s done every single month in our state, in every single household, by every single person. The truth is, more than 850,000 tons of food are wasted each year in Maryland. Based on 2016 state population estimates, that amounts to around 282 pounds of food waste per person, per year, or more than 23 pounds per person, per month – approximately the same amount of food on the grocery list above. This is slightly above the national average cited in “Please Eat Responsibly,” the first article in our series on food waste that discussed some of the ways food waste can happen, as well as a list of tips to help you waste less food at home.

Now, if you’re like me, you’re thinking, what does all this wasted food cost? According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, food waste costs Americans $165 billion each year, which works out to about $44 per person, per month; but, depending on your food choices, it could cost a lot more than that. For example, let’s have a look at the receipt from our shopping trip for 23 pounds of food. A grocery receipt.

*Prices based on Baltimore-area food markets

No matter what your food preferences are, food waste is expensive, with the actual cost reaching far beyond your monthly grocery bill. It’s a complex problem with considerable social, environmental and economic impacts that involves a long list of stakeholders, ranging from farmers, restaurants and retailers to consumers, foodbanks and solid waste managers.

So, how do we go about recovering all this wasted food and putting it to good use? That was the central question at Maryland’s very first Food Recovery Summit held last November, when nearly 200 collaborators gathered to find ways to reduce food waste in our state. According to the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), participants discussed:

  • How collaboration across sectors and levels is key to food recovery efforts; (read more about the importance of collaboration here);
  • The increasing availability of data and research that can be used to find solutions to our food waste problem, as well as the need to contribute our state’s information to that body of work;
  • Successful food recovery efforts being made by groups in our state, such as the Maryland Food Bank, Baltimore Free Farm and Veteran Compost;
  • The need for a robust food recovery infrastructure, given that, currently, we have only four food composting facilities in our state (with one more in the planning stages);
  • How economic factors play a key role in what is and isn’t done to recover food; (learn more about the economics of food waste here);
  • The importance of the Food Recovery Hierarchy as a guide for food recovery efforts.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Food Recovery Hierarchy

Workgroups at the summit identified food recovery outreach, limited consumer food source reduction and donation and the lack of the necessary infrastructure as the most challenging aspects of their food recovery efforts. You can read their findings and proposed solutions in this detailed report by MDE.

One thing is clear – Maryland’s first Food Recovery Summit was a big step in the right direction, but businesses, governments and organizations can’t solve this problem alone. Consumers also have a significant role to play in reducing food waste. Here are ways you can help:

  1. Start at home: Learn ways to reduce the amount of food you waste.
  2. Don’t be a food snob – buy and eat ugly food, cook with scraps and always eat your leftovers.
  3. Donate unwanted food to the hungry.
  4. Get informed about the new voluntary standards for food date labeling.
  5. Learn the benefits of composting and consider composting at home. Composting of food scraps in compost piles or bins is prohibited in Baltimore County due to concerns about attracting rodents; however, vermicomposting and soil incorporation are permitted.
  6. Make your voice heard: Visit, write, email or call your favorite farmers, retailers, restaurants and other stakeholders to tell them that food waste reduction is important to you.
  7. Vote with your dollar: Patronize businesses that go the extra mile to reduce the amount of food they waste.
  8. Raise awareness: Share what you’ve learned about food waste with your family members, friends and community.
  9. Spearhead a food waste reduction program at work, or ask your employer to participate in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Challenge.
  10. Find volunteer opportunities with food recovery organizations.

Have you already conducted a household food waste audit and managed to reduce the amount of food you waste? Tell us how! Send your tips to

Revised September 11, 2017