By Sue G. Collins
In the last year, the profits from Arielle Pool’s home-baked bread company, Just Food, have funded nearly 7,000 nutritious meals for Atlantans through Feeding America’s partnership with the Atlanta Community Food Bank and with Action Ministry’s Women’s Community Kitchen.
The entrepreneur, inspired by a trip to France, started experimenting with recipes and techniques and now bakes beautiful breads regularly, selling to neighbors and a growing clientele, with the goal to help Atlanta’s hungry.
“I suppose my motivation to bake for justice exists in two parts: the practical and the theoretical,” says Pool, who lives in Virginia-Highland. with her husband and daughter, who are also her number one fans and taste testers. “For years, I have spent time volunteering with Atlanta-area organizations working in hunger-relief. As I worked in food pantries, at meal kitchens, among homeless neighbors and even teaching in local schools my understanding of ‘food insecure Atlantans’ morphed from a generic notion of ‘someone else’ to a flood of memories of the faces of people I had met and chatted with.”
When she first started baking, she envisioned sharing her loaves with Atlantans facing food insecurity. “A direct application of the idea that if I have extra, let me share with folks who don’t have enough,” Pool says.
But the logistics of getting bread from her kitchen into the hands of those in need was difficult. “My bread has no preservatives – yay! – but that means the shelf life on my loaves is relatively short – boo! But what if I became a sort of middle man (woman)? Could I sell my artisan bread at reasonable prices and still garner enough profit to send directly to organizations in Atlanta working on the front lines of hunger relief? Turns out, it’s possible.”
Indeed it is. Just Food’s profits helped purchase a mobile cooler for Free Food Commune, an organization that rescues would-be-wasted food and distributes it at no cost each Saturday. Pool is eagerly following and helping fund both the gleaning and food education work of Concrete Jungle, an organization that has rescued more than 90,000 pounds of produce that would otherwise be wasted and given it to food banks and shelters. She hopes her profits will benefit these projects.
Beautiful artisan boules, muffins made with seasonal berries and naan are among the bounty baked in the Just Food kitchen along with honey molasses granola and buttermilk biscuits from Arielle’s great-grandmother’s recipe.
Pool calls herself an “accidental baker.” A stay-at-home mom and accomplished tutor, she researched recipes on the web and ultimately found a valuable resource at her local library.
“If you told me three years ago I would own a bakery, I would have laughed heartily. I’ve always enjoyed cooking meals, but my early forays into baking were, shall we say, less than impressive. Dough that wouldn’t rise, flat-as-a-pancake biscuits, and that kerfuffle when leftover fish-frying oil went into the brownie batter. Since then, I’ve slowly expanded, tinkered, tried, failed, and settled on a collection of baked goods I’m pleased with.“
The benefits of her business are numerous and some are unexpected. “I’ve certainly met a host of folks and forged relationships with neighbors and throughout my community. I’ve been able to experiment in baking, teach baking classes, and show my daughter the adventure of entrepreneurship and the joy found in starting to improve the world,” says Pool.
Email JustFoodAtlanta@gmail.com to get a weekly menu and join the Just Food brigade.