Human trafficking is a complicated social issue — it’s difficult to speak about, which makes it harder to raise awareness, but it’s even more challenging for one to survive and get back on their feet. Freedom a la Cart is a social enterprise here in Columbus, which provides a working environment that helps victims of human trafficking develop the skills they need to succeed.
How did they start?
Freedom a la Cart started actually as DOMA International back in 2009 as a supportive arm to the CATCH Court program.
CATCH Court is a specialty docket in Franklin County that gives survivors of human trafficking a second chance, treating them as victims instead of criminals. It’s a two-year probationary program where they receive recovery assistance for addiction, trauma counseling and lots of support. Every two weeks, they come to court, and after two years of this intensive program they graduate and have their record expunged.
But after going out in the world, they were being turned down for jobs, and still recovering from addiction, so DOMA International bought a food cart off of eBay, started making great sandwiches, and giving these ladies a chance to work at festivals. (Which is the fun fact why Freedom a la Cart has no e.)
It grew from there into a catering business (because you can’t survive as a food cart business through a Columbus winter), and have since opened a cafe in the north branch of the Columbus Public Library. (They are currently developing plans to open a full cafe in the city!)
How does this drive their mission?
As with any business, quality is key. But they learned that in order to utilize their ladies effectively, they had to develop a menu both that tasted great, and one that they could master. They also had to develop a support system and community that could create the right environment.
What really struck me is that Freedom a la Cart is not about training women to work in the food industry – it’s about helping them developing skills so that they have a pathway to freedom:
“No person should be bought or sold for sex. Not here in Central Ohio. Not anywhere.
At Freedom a la Cart, we bring hope to survivors of human trafficking so they can build a new life of freedom and self-sufficiency. We believe that giving a woman practical job skills and developing a strong work ethic is vital for creating a pathway to freedom. So, we’ve created a safe place for restoration where survivors can heal, learn and grow as they prepare for sustainable employment within our community” — Mission of Freedom a la Cart
What is Eat-Up Columbus?
Their annual Eat-Up Columbus event is just around the corner on February 10th. They bring together award-winning chefs to prepare an extravagant five-course meal, the funds of which go to support the social impact of their organization. Their menu is stellar, so check it out!