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Bella Aquila's pay-it-forward meals are helping victims of human trafficking

Posted at 10:50 AM, Apr 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-02 13:46:35-04

IDAHO — After a personal experience with human trafficking, a restaurant in Eagle is helping other victims and survivors through a partnership with the Idaho Anti-Trafficking coalition.

“During the lockdown one of my employees, his cousin was kidnapped by human traffickers and she was thankfully rescued quickly with the good help of the anti-trafficking coalition,” Amy Stewart-Cooper, owner of Bella Aquila said. "This just brought it home to me that this is real and that this is happening."

"When Amy shared with me her personal story it hit hard," Jennifer Zielinski, Idaho Anti-Trafficking Coalition Executive Director said. "We know from our own experiences that this is really happening."

Stewart-Cooper knew she wanted to do more to help.

“I am trying to be a part of the solution and I was looking at what I can do as my role as a restaurant owner to help victims to help people in crisis and that was feeding people,” she said.

So, Bella Aquila and Idaho ATC partnered together to provide hot meals to individuals in a crisis.

Each meal will cost $15 and will include the client's choice of pasta with sauce, veggies, side salad, and bread and spread.

“It means a lot because it is part of the necessity, those basic needs," Zielinski said. "Having partnerships like Bella Aquilla and really people like Amy who are proactive and contribute in various ways, but who are also doing the work making these meals gives us an opportunity to focus on other things and other needs."

They are asking for the community's help in donating money to fund the meals for the victims.

Once a victim is identified Bella Aquila will prepare the meal and a case manager will deliver it to the person in need protecting the client's anonymity.

“I see you. I want to take care of you, and give the victims what it takes to go out and attack the world the next day,” Stewart-Cooper said.

"This story highlights the seriousness of human trafficking, but also that it is prevalent," Zielinski said. "As an organization, we didn’t realize it was this significant here so the things that we are unraveling and discovering are even new to us but her story is really what makes this partnership worthwhile."

A partnership that shows it is going to take a community effort to solve this problem.

"The community is instrumental in identifying some of those red flags, identifying the key indicators, and then having these types of partnerships ensure safety," Zielinski said. "When we do enter a partnership with a community member it includes a shared philosophy of integrity and ensuring that every person is honored and their voice matters. So the community investment means that we are all agreeing to address this issue and to come together."

"I am going to be in the trenches fighting this issue," Stewart-Cooper said.

To donate go to idahoatc.org or call them at (208) 630-6601.