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Tackling Hunger and Community Development, One Cake at a Time

Photo: Courtesy of Blake Little

The Remington neighborhood of Baltimore wasn’t the obvious choice for Food Network star Duff Goldman to open Charm City Cakes in 2002. Economic struggles are common in Baltimore, where one-fourth of renters spend 50 percent or more of their income on rent.

Since the foreclosure crisis of 2007–2008, affordable housing has followed a grim cycle. People who lost their homes flooded the rental market even as wages, when adjusted for inflation, stagnated. Meanwhile, not enough new rental units were being built, resulting in high rents. To deal with these challenges, many local communities are partnering with small businesses.

Charm City Cakes

Duff Goldman is a believer in these sorts of partnerships. “The neighborhood where I opened Charm City Cakes was not the nicest place in town 15 years ago,” Goldman says. “Since then, a few businesses that were doing just so-so are slammed, real estate value has probably tripled, and there are dozens of new businesses. Is that my doing? Maybe, maybe not.”

Goldman’s devotion to community service stems from the Jewish concept of tzedakah (an obligation to do what is right). “From a very early age, my parents made sure that I knew I was fortunate and that other people aren’t as much. The concept of tzedakah was really hammered home.”

Goldman sees Baltimore as a true partner. “Lower-income cities have lots of charitable groups that, in addition to doing good work, help you get your name out into the community,” he points out. “The city is also very happy to work with new businesses. When you’re opening a business and the city gives you $500 for a new sign or some sidewalk beautification, that’s manna from heaven.”

He also keeps perspective. “My bakery could disappear and the world will keep spinning. But by doing things that help people, we’re trying to leave the world a little better than we found it.”

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