2023 Food Waste Solutions Summit

May 16-18, 2023 | St.Louis, MO

Marvin Hayes

Program Manager

Baltimore Compost Collective Program


The Baltimore region ranks among the worst in the U.S. for air pollution. According to a 2018 study, the region had 114 days where the air quality ranked as yellow or worse by the EPA’s Air Quality Index. Poor air quality triggers asthma and can cause other health issues. In fact, children in Baltimore City have asthma at twice the rate of the rest of the country. And, our hospitalization rate for pediatric asthma is one of the highest in the nation.Some neighborhoods, like Brooklyn-Curtis Bay, have to contend with additional environmental challenges related to industrial pollution – including three active trash incinerators, pollution from the nearby highways, and factories both active and inactive. The soil in these communities remains contaminated long after a factory shutters its doors.Marvin Hayes thinks composting is a big part of the solution to Baltimore’s many environmental challenges. “Composting is the alternative to trash incineration,” he says. About 75 percent of our trash can be recycled or composted.”Hayes’s first composting experience was on an Outward Bound trip while he was in high school. He was a student at Frederick Douglass High School in West Baltimore. “They asked me to take my food scraps and put them in the woods, but that’s not how we dealt with our food scraps in West Baltimore,” he recalls. “That was how I was first introduced to composting.”While he wasn’t always passionate about composting, Hayes sees that trip as the start of his journey. One Outward Bound expedition turned into five, which led to an internship at Outward Bound, which led to a job at a wilderness school in Connecticut, which eventually led to a job at the Chesapeake Center for Youth Development. Before the center closed its doors, Hayes was involved in a youth-engaged project to collect and compost food scraps with the Baltimore Compost Collective.That’s where he learned about the Filbert Street Garden in Brooklyn-Curtis Bay, and where two young people taught him about urban composting. Together with the Institute for Local Self Reliance, Marvin transitioned and rebranded the Baltimore Compost Collective project.In short order, Hayes became passionate about composting and now manages the collective, which has grown to over 200 customers, diverting about 700 pounds of food scraps from the incinerators weekly. But, until he became an OSI Community Fellow, his work with the collective had been part time.“’Compost: Learn, so we don’t have to burn,Learn so you don't have to burn, Starve the Incentarators, feed the soil, Feed the Community’ that’s our motto,” Hayes says. “We can do so much through composting. We can help young people develop job skills and become environmental champions. And, we can help Baltimore get closer to zero waste.”Hayes wants to teach more youth about composting and green jobs and expand his composting system at the garden to be able to handle more food scraps.“I want to give this city composting fever,” says Hayes. “I want my legacy to be that I’m training the next generation. There is power in empowering other people, seeing their vision and goals, and encouraging them the way I have been encouraged.


Thursday, May 18th

3:00pm - 4:00pm

Mainstage Session | The Future is Now: The Power of Indomitable Youth to Spark Action

Youth are the greatest agents of change in a society. When mobilized and empowered, youth are the generation of environmental stewards driving forward a nutritious, sustainable, resilient, and inclusive food system. Yet too often, youth are regarded as recipients and are underrepresented or excluded from decisions that impact their future. And, are the generation most impacted by our present (in)actions. Recognizing their agency means recognizing that this younger generation are heterogeneous societal actors in their own right and with their own values that we can learn from. If they are to inherit our food system, it is essential to develop systems, policies, and enabling environments now that provide spaces and mechanisms to stimulate their participation. In this session you will hear from youth who are paddling the oars of innovation, be inspired by their triumphs, and explore how we can further unleash their potential to thrive in a livable climate. 

Ongoing Creative Sessions


Film Screening - Compost Fever!

Directed by Kenneth Moss, Youth Lead Composter for the Baltimore Compost Collective Program, the short film titled Compost Fever!, depicts the life of two dedicated composters in the fight for environmental justice in an attempt to starve the incinerator and feed the soil and feed the community.

Kenneth decided to produce this short film because his community in Baltimore has the highest pollution rate in the country, and is taking the initiative to let more people know about their fight for environmental justice by spreading Compost Fever through the variant of education - putting a stop to these incinerators so that "we all can breathe clean air."

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