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Lifeway Foods CEO Julie Smolyansky Launches Nonprofit To End Violence Against Women

CHICAGO, March 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Julie Smolyansky, President and CEO of Lifeway Foods (Nasdaq: LWAY), today announced the launch of Test400k, a campaign to resolve the backlog of 400,000 untested rape kits in the U.S. and end violence against women both domestically and globally. The nonprofit organization – formed by Smolyansky and her life partner Jason Burdeen – was inspired by a recent Human Rights Watch report indicating that 400,000 evidence kits collected after alleged sexual assaults in the U.S. dating back to at least 1979 have been sitting in police storage facilities around the country without processing.

Test400k will raise awareness, advocate, engage and support innovation in rapid DNA analysis. It will also mobilize communities to take action to improve the ways in which law enforcement and the criminal justice system handle the processing of evidence collected from sexual assaults in the U.S.  Financing will come from grants, corporate sponsorships, crowdfunding and other fundraising efforts.

The announcement comes days after President Obama signed an expanded Violence Against Women Act and a month after Smolyansky's appointment to the United Nations Foundation's Global Entrepreneurs Council, a group that is tasked with providing an entrepreneurial approach to its mission of helping the United Nations solve global problems.

Smolyansky's background also includes three years as a certified rape crisis counselor and in-home family counselor working with children removed from Chicago homes before joining her father at Lifeway Foods in 1997. She became the youngest female CEO of a publicly held firm when she took over the company's kefir business in 2002 at the age of 27. Under her guidance, company sales have jumped from $12 million to nearly $90 million

"As CEO of a natural foods company and a former social services counselor, I have been a long-time advocate for healthy and safe communities. When I learned that over 80% of sexual assault evidence in the U.S. is never examined for DNA that can connect the perpetrator to the crime, I was appalled. The garbage in my alley is handled better. It means that victims are denied due process and their attackers are free to cause harm again," Smolyansky said. "Even worse, the UN estimates that one out of three women worldwide will be raped, beaten or murdered in their lifetime. Test400k aims to be a force for change."  

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