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Hungry kids can't learn

If you know me, you know that cake is my life. But as much as I'd love to eat sweets for breakfast every morning, I know I need healthy food to fuel my day. Whether your day involves shaping a cake into a crazy scene from Jaws like mine, working at a bank or fighting fires, we all need breakfast. That's especially true for growing kids.

But too many kids in Baltimore miss out on breakfast. Even though it's served at most Baltimore City Public Schools, only about 41 percent of kids who qualify for free breakfast get one. Too often, teachers are bearing the brunt of this crisis: Nationally, 3 of 4 teachers see hunger in their classrooms, according to the nonprofit No Kid Hungry.

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Can you imagine doing well on a pop quiz on Monday morning when you haven't eaten since Friday afternoon? Would you be motivated to work hard so you can go to college if you were fighting hunger and stress? Of course not! Students can't focus when they're hungry.

Feeding a child breakfast means giving them a chance at success. Research shows that kids who eat school breakfast score higher on math tests and attend class more, making them more likely to graduate and earn higher wages as adults.

I opened my bakery, Charm City Cakes, back in 2002. I've watched Baltimore thrive in the years since, and I want our kids to thrive along with us. But I can't build the next generation of cake artists, sales reps, graphic designers and others who make my business run if our kids aren't getting the fuel they need to succeed.

That's why I'm proud to be part of the Maryland Breakfast Challenge, an effort by No Kid Hungry, the Maryland State Department of Education and other groups to boost the number of kids eating school breakfast. As a part of the challenge, schools across the state raced to connect as many kids as possible with a healthy breakfast. They knocked it out the park – getting 10,000 more kids breakfast in just three months!

And the statewide winner, Arundel Elementary/Middle, is here in Baltimore City! They won by getting creative – moving breakfast from the cafeteria to the classroom. Other schools did similar things, like serving breakfast on carts for kids to grab on their way to class.

That's the kind of creativity I like to see. We need more schools in Baltimore City and around the state to follow Arundel Elementary/Middle's lead. The meals are covered by the federal government, and funding is available to help schools make changes in how they serve breakfast.

Serving breakfast during the school day makes it possible to reach so many more kids in need of a morning meal. If the school bus is late, or the light rail breaks down, kids can still eat. Everyone is offered a meal, so there's no embarrassment felt by a child eating in the cafeteria before school begins. Teachers love it: 73 percent of educators with breakfast in the classroom told No Kid Hungry that it helps kids be more alert for morning lessons.

Maryland is already a national leader on serving hungry kids school breakfast. But I know we can do better, especially here in Charm City. We have the best of everything here in Baltimore: winning sports teams, insanely delicious food, beautiful sights and amazing people. Let's help make our kids the best they can be too.

Duff Goldman is the owner of Charm City Cakes and Food Network star.

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