One of my new favorite should-be “sections” in Southern Living magazine is not really a section at all. It’s what I like to call the “food with a cause” feature, and it shows the positive, fulfilling impact that something as simple as a slice of pie can have on its community.
I first noticed it in the May 2010 issue, in the magazine’s special Alabama Living section. Then again in June. And it grabbed my attention primarily because the cause behind the cooking was different from the sustainable, organic, eco-friendly ventures so commonly covered by many food magazines. All great topics, but this was appealing because it was different.
The subject of both issues’ “food with a cause” feature was the same little community-building café, PieLab in Greensboro, Ala. Greensboro is a small, struggling town in the state’s fertile Black Belt region, which was especially hard hit when cotton ceded its long-ago reign as king.
Like many other rural towns across the state–and probably just about anywhere–it’s fighting for its economic life. But enter PieLab, part bakery, part culinary school and part design studio, and you’ve got the recipe for sweet success.
The project not only teaches area youth how to make then sell pies, but it also offers job training programs for area residents. Better still, the café simply brings the community together, one slice of pie at a time, and that small gesture has yielded much bigger results. To top it off, PieLab was tapped by Southern Living’s June 2010 issue as serving up one of the South’s top five pies.
PieLab’s delicious combination of cooking, community and creativity has sparked an entrepreneurial spirit in Greensboro, where residents have been inspired to open their own businesses or share their skills through classes and workshops.
Stories like this reaffirm the power of food to bring people together, and in the best cases, to inspire change. So, Southern Living editors, if you’re reading, please serve another slice of “food with a cause” in future issues.