Freedom a la Cart is a catering service in the Columbus, Ohio area that employs survivors of human trafficking. Medium-sized businesses and universities in Central Ohio can order drop-off catering through Freedom a la Cart, which cooks and prepares all of the food in-house. Though they mostly provide lunch catering, Freedom a la Cart also has breakfast options. Through their employment, survivors gain confidence, self-fulfillment, and skills necessary to re-enter the workforce. The company fosters gender equality and decent work and economic growth for its employees, and it helps to strengthen institutions by working with the justice system.
Case Western Reserve University - Weatherhead School of Management
Freedom a la Cart brings hope to survivors of sex trafficking by giving these survivors a place to heal, learn, and become financially independent. They are a catering service in Columbus who hire these women to provide a service while recovering from their traumatic experiences. Their goal falls under an array of different UN SDG’s, namely, gender equality. There is no denying that exponentially more women suffer from the horrors of sex trafficking than men, leaving it extremely difficult for these women to climb back up the later and get back on track. Freedom a la Cart allows these women a new start, making the transition back to reality enormously easier and provides them a job and sense of purpose.
Their mission also applies to the Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions SDG. Sex trafficking as a whole is clearly the opposite of peace and justice. We need strong institutions such as Freedom a la Cart to lead the world into peace and justice. It should also be said that Freedom a la Cart applies to the Decent Work and Economic Growth SDG. By simply owning the business, they are benefiting the economy, but it is much more than that. Freedom a la Cart is giving women a new chance at life by giving them a job. Most of these women feel worthless, and by giving them a decent job they are truly benefiting society. Each one of these women is a functioning part of our society and is absolutely contributing to economic growth. It is impossible to calculate exactly how much Freedom a la Cart is helping the world, but the nature of their business alone is enough to inspire anyone with a heart.
Freedom a la Cart was born from the idea that nobody should be bought or sold for sex anywhere in the United States, but especially Central Ohio. Thousands of men and women are trafficked every year in this terrible trade that strips people of their freedom and dignity. By working with survivors of human trafficking, Freedom a la Cart gives them the opportunity to build a new life and become self-sufficient. Built from Doma International in 2009 by founder Julie Clark, Freedom’s first food cart two years later started their life-changing work. Providing women practical job skills and building strong work ethics sets them up with a solid foundation for successful careers that will get them on their feet again.
Their tireless devotion to that mission continues today over five years later at Freedom a la Cart as they’ve grown into a full-fledged box lunch and full-service catering company. CEO Paula Haines puts it best, “That passion as a woman to help another woman see her value and help her on her feet [drives me]. It just always breaks my heart when these women just don’t have any value whatsoever. And the people in their life have told them they’re crap and they’re nothing. And it’s so not true. So just to help them see their worth is a privilege and a responsibility of the organization”. With their continued partnership with groups such as CATCH Court, which provides a treatment plan for victims of human trafficking with PTSD, depression, and drug addiction, Haines leads an outstanding team that gives all these women hope for the future while providing the Columbus community with outstanding meals.
Both short-term and long-term impacts that the business has on the society, the economy, and on the organization’s members as a whole are very valuable. In the short-term, this business aids women who are sex-trafficking survivors and need some help getting back on their feet. Freedom a la Cart gives these women a place of work so that they are not just receiving financial help, but they are sufficiently providing for themselves. The women are also developing valuable professional and communication skills by working at a business. Not only that, it also prepares them for life after Freedom a la Cart in terms of employment and personal development. A woman who was placed in a front-desk job after leaving Freedom, had trouble using a Word document tool, so someone from Freedom sat down with her to walk her through the process until she finally got it.
Furthermore, in the long-run, Freedom a la Cart is helping to break cycles of exploitation within the community. With the expectations that these women will be empowered by the business, Freedom a la Cart hopes that communities will continue to support and empower them as well through employment. Ultimately, Freedom a la Cart is not doing charity work, instead they are providing support for victims to heal and enabling them to better themselves. They are cultivating growth for the sex-trafficking survivors of their community.
Some evidence of this impact are the testimonies of the survivors. One in particular is about a survivor that started out in the program and is now helping to develop the program by working as a Case Manager for the women, and running the Butterfly Program- a peer-to-peer supportive group for long-term crisis prevention and continued help. Another is of a victim that started out in CATCH Court, a court that serves to help women who have been arrested for prostitution, who then turned her life around and started working for the court system as a bailiff. There are several testimonies like these among the women who have been through their program. They stay in touch with most of their members through their Butterfly Program. They have about 200 members that they check on every year, and they survey their ~100 active members to keep track on how the women are doing.
In addition to raising revenue through accepting donations, Freedom a la Cart mainly raises revenue through their catering service. Because the business created a catering social enterprise with the focus of empowering women, providing life-changing employment, and support to survivors of human trafficking, they have been able to provide 59 survivors with paid workforce training. Impressively, 24 out of the 59 have transitioned into employment into the community. They have been able to achieve such great success because instead of just offering women the training to stay in the food industry, Paula states that they “…are training women to be good workers and giving them time to develop themselves”. She elaborates more on this point by indicating how they truly devote individualized attention and focus on each of the women. She says that they help each woman figure out what their goals are from a work and a personal standpoint, help them budget their finances, help them secure a driver's license and a reliable vehicle when needed, and once they see that they're ready to move forward, they help to connect the women with employers that are offering meaningful jobs that align with their goals.
While there are many success stories that Freedom a la Cart has made possible, one of Paula’s favorites involves a woman named Vanessa, who was one of their first employees and a graduate of CATCH Court. Paula states that with the help of Freedom a la Cart, Vanessa was able to get a job in the court system where she worked in the prosecutor’s office. Paula states that Vanessa always tells the story of how she works at the place where she once was locked up in handcuffs. Paula added that since then, Vanessa has moved into the role of “a domestic violence advocate in that department and was recently hired by Judge Herbert as his bailiff. So, she is now the bailiff of CATCH Court, she owns her own house, and is just doing marvelous things and supports the women (going through the system) in so many ways”.
Freedom a la Cart is a catering service, geared towards empowering women and providing employment to survivors of human trafficking. Freedom a la Cart helps survivors of human trafficking build a new life of freedom and self sufficiency. The company believes that giving a woman practical job skills and developing strong work ethic is vital for creating a pathway to freedom. They have created a safe space for survivors of human trafficking to heal and learn new skills to become self sustainable. Till date, they have been able to provide 59 survivors with paid workforce training. Freedom a la Cart finds innovative and unique ways to help their employees as CEO Paula Haines shared a story about one of her employees not being able to make it through to payday so instead of lending her money, they found an innovative solution by giving her employee a Kroger gift card and a bus pass so she could make it to work. Later their case manager decided to teach the employee how to prepare meals.
Freedom a la Cart also works with participants of CATCH Court — a specialized docket in Columbus, Ohio. CATCH blends punitive sentences with a 2-year treatment-oriented non-adversarial program for rearrested prostitutes who are victims of human trafficking and suffer from PTSD, depression and drug addiction. They provide these program participants with supportive services which may include jail visits , delivery of personal items, personal mentoring, weekly lunches, monthly group outings, retreats and an annual graduation celebration. They currently serve over 65 survivors in the CATCH Court program.
Paula Haines, CEO
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Columbus, Ohio, US
Business Website: https://freedomalacart.org/
Year Founded: 2009
Number of Employees: 11 to 50
Freedom a la Cart is a catering service that employs survivors of human trafficking. Through their employment, survivors gain confidence, self-fulfillment, and skills necessary to re-enter the workforce. The company fosters good health and well-being and decent work and economic growth for its employees, and it helps to strengthen institutions by working with the justice system.