Freedom a la Cart Cafe + Bakery

A place of our own

Freedom a la Cart is a nonprofit social enterprise that makes meals more meaningful by tastefully combining fresh, from-scratch cuisine with life-changing employment and long-term support to local survivors of sex trafficking and exploitation. What started in 2011 as a food cart to create job opportunities has since blossomed into a thriving box lunch and catering business.

The Challenge

Each year Freedom serves over 300 survivors with supportive services. Over the past four years, 75 survivors received workforce training, with 26 transitioning to sustainable employment in our community. 80% of program participants have received no new criminal charges. But each year, there are an average of 1,200-1,500 arrests in Franklin County for prostitution — of which 92% are identified as victims of sex trafficking, trafficked since the average age of 13.

The Solution

Our vision is to increase capacity and give more survivors a chance to build a new life of freedom and self-sufficiency. Our project will expand our social enterprise catering business with a fast-casual café located in downtown Columbus at 123 E Spring Street. The 5,000 square foot space will include a commercial kitchen supporting both catering and the café, café seating, plus a first-of-its-kind Survivor Resource Center on the upper level.

This project will enable Freedom a la Cart to employ twice as many survivors through the workforce development program; reach over 600 survivors annually through the resource center; extend the message of hope with a visual presence in the local community; and increase net revenue to help fund services like case management, trauma counseling and employment coaching. Construction is scheduled to be completed in early January 2021.

A Place Of Our Own

Over the past 10 years, Freedom a la Cart has been housed in six different facilities. Although each location served a purpose, this project will establish a true home for Freedom, ensure the longevity of the organization, and curate a place survivors can come to for support, community, and encouragement — a place of our own. Through this project, we’ve been able to create a safe space for survivors to gather, heal, learn and grow. Every woman who encounters Freedom a la Cart will know she is valued, supported and loved by our community.

The café, kitchen and upper level Freedom Center were strategically structured with trauma-informed design principles to provide a safe oasis for survivors. By incorporating natural light, specific design colors, live greenery, and strategic layouts with open sight paths, the Freedom Center will offer a woman repose in the midst of whatever circumstance she faces in her life. Every design and detail in the café, kitchen, and Freedom Center has purpose- to continue promoting the message of recovery and restoration. From the enlarged front windows to add natural lighting, to the surround sound speakers adding calming, rhythmic auditory stimulation, we truly believe 123 E Spring Street has been transformed into A Place of Our Own.

Empowerment Self-Defense Classes, Trauma-informed Yoga, GED tutoring, and small group support meetings will take place in the Freedom Center on the upper level of the café for survivors to attend and acquire knowledge on healthy self-care and protection efforts. On-site trauma counseling will also be provided at the Freedom Center, providing program participants and the women we serve supplemental mental health support in navigating their new reclaimed lives.

The Freedom Center will also provide a consistent space to conduct peer support groups, empowering women to reach out to their peers throughout different stages on their recovery journeys. Throughout 2021, our peer-to-peer outreach program will expand to downtown, offering survivors an opportunity to give back and reach out to other women still trapped in sex trafficking.

Who We Serve

Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world and has deep roots in Central Ohio. Through a strong partnership with CATCH Court specialty docket of Franklin County Municipal Court, Freedom a la Cart serves women who have been trafficked for sex: 96% are female; 32% were first sold for sex before age 15; 70% were sexually abused as a child; 50% have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI); 96% have been in jail or prison, an average of 11X; 64% have felonies; 62% have mental health issues; 83% have children; 100% suffer from drug addiction. To reintegrate into society and become self-sufficient, survivors need to gain comprehensive life skills training AND workforce development in a safe environment that understands their complex trauma and supports their continual journey of restoration.

The Impact

Our results are self-sufficient women who are reintegrating into the community. They are retaining a job, paying taxes, getting their driver’s license, buying cars, attending college, moving into permanent housing, regaining custody of their children and transitioning off government assistance. Generational impact! Please join us in creating a place of our own in our community for these amazing survivors!

Donate or make a pledge to our

capital campaign

Designate your donation or commit your pledge to Freedom a la Cart’s Capital Campaign today, and become an advocate alongside survivors for lives of freedom and self-sufficiency. We look forward to seeing you on Spring Street!

Donate Now!       Make Your Pledge Today

Thank you to our

major funding partners