Posted in

Freedom a la Cart Serves Up So Much More Than Meals

freedom a la cart staff

In April 2021, a café and bakery opened in downtown Columbus, Ohio, quickly becoming a community favorite. But Freedom a la Cart is more than just a brightly lit space serving up healthy breakfast bowls and iced caramel chai lattes. Their mission is to train, employ and support survivors of human trafficking to help them build self-sufficient lives.

staff member in the kitchen

Though the café is new, Freedom a la Cart has been operating as a catering business for over a decade. It began with a food cart purchased on eBay in 2011 and a mission to offer survivors employment. As CEO Paula Haines explains, “Finding and retaining employment, while walking through the stages of recovery and restoration, can be difficult for survivors to handle without sustained supplemental support.”

They work closely with CATCH Court to break the cycle of abuse by offering on-the-job training, trauma counseling and employment coaching. Over 91 survivors have completed the one-to-two-year workforce training in the last six years alone and moved on to their “Butterfly Program,” a long-term support community. The current team is 30 employees strong and growing.

'Don't Judge Me' sandwich

And while they learn basic work skills, the food they create is anything but. Everything is made from scratch, using high-quality ingredients and includes “special elements that make the ordinary extraordinary,” according to Haines. Take the “Don’t Judge Me” sandwich, for instance, named for the founder of CATCH, Judge Paul Herbert. It’s roasted chicken topped with French onion and garlic aioli, crumbled potato chips and arugula, all served on a paesano roll. Another popular item – The Rosemary Breakfast Sandwich – house-made rosemary lemon breakfast sausage, egg, Provolone cheese, lemon aioli, arugula and a fresh baked croissant bun.

With such an interesting menu and mission, it’s no surprise Freedom a la Cart recently made the list of best new restaurants in Columbus Monthly. They also plan on growing. Said Haines: “We believe our innovative model that joins social purpose with business rationality is scalable, replicable and effective.”


AnnMarie Mattila

AnnMarie Mattila is a food writer, recipe developer and pastry chef based in New York. She has a master's degree from New York University in Food Studies and sometimes eats cake for dinner. Follow her at



Leave a Comment