Local catering company uses food to help survivors of sex trafficking

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A typical day at Freedom a la Cart is not typical at all.

"No one day is ever the same," said Jessica Levy, executive chef for Freedom a la Cart, a full-service catering company that employees survivors of human trafficking.

"Last year in Franklin County, there were 12 hundred arrests for solicitation and of those, 92 percent were victims of human trafficking," Levy explained. "We were realizing that the women were struggling to get job. And so we realized food was a really great way to get people in the kitchen... just a great place to collaborate."

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Freedom a la Cart teaches the women to cook, bake and job skills that can be used and applied in any field.

"When you work in a kitchen you just learn so many great skills," said Levy. "Responsibility, reading a schedule and ownership and responsibility."

Tawnya Dunaway has been in the program for four years.

"I was homeless when I started working at freedom. I was actually living in the homeless shelter. And now, I have my own apartment," said Dunaway.

Dunaway says she spent 20+ years in the "street life".

"Probably the biggest skill I’ve learned is communicating with people," Dunaway explained. "People are in different points in their life. I’ve learned how to do better conflict resolution. Not screaming and hollering. Let’s talk about things."

Dunaway says she and the other women being trained to feel accepted, and better prepared to take on the world around them.

"It’s the validation that we are worthy of having a decent life. We aren’t what our past says. We aren’t our crimes or what we’ve been through," she said.

Most women are a part of the Freedom a la Cart program for about 24 months. In addition to job training, they receive case management assistance.