Food Swaps Across America!

Posted by & filed under homeec, inthekitchen.

BK Swappers, a food swap based in my hometown that I’ve had the distinct pleasure of co-organizing, has been in existence for the past year. In that time, swaps have popped up all across the country and even in the UK, recently. These events are a great way to freshen up your pantry, challenge yourself in the kitchen and make new friends. If you are interested in participating in a swap near you, you can find a list of swaps here at Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking. Kate and I started the first swap here in Brooklyn and upon her move to Austin, TX she started organizing one of her very own. Don’t see your city on the list? Start your own…it’s easy!

food swap.jpg
(The spread at onne of our swaps this past Autumn)

First, it helps to have a friend or two help with organizing the event. Since attendees each bring a little bit of food, it’s a fairly low-maintenance affair. Having two or three folks involved in logistics, though makes it a breeze. Compile a email list of folks you know who you think might be interested, create an email address for your swap and import those to it so that all organizers can have access to the account and take turns handing the responsibility of corresponding with aspiring swappers.

Secondly, if you use social media like Twitter and Facebook, create a Fan page and hashtag that people can follow and share ideas through. We use the hashtag #BKSwappers which allows everyone to participate in the exchanges. We get a lot of questions about the swap this way. Many new folks have come on board just by seeing people tweeting about it. Facebook Fan Pages are great for posting pictures, recipes or blog posts pertaining to the swaps.

Next, find a space to hold your swap. If you are open to having strangers come to your home, you can host it there. My suggestion would be to host it at a local cafe, bar, gallery or recreational space that is willing to let you use their place in exchange for exposure or added business. Be sure that bringing outside food is allowed in the space, though. The potluck portion of the event gives attendees to sample out some of their swap offerings.

Once you have a space set up set a date, inform your mailing list, Twitter feed and Facebook Fans. Set up an Eventbrite page and get people to RSVP for the event.

On the date of the event, you will need a table for potluck offerings and a table for swap goods. each swap item should be given a ¼ sheet sized bid form that contains spaces for the following information:

– The item available for swapping.
– The name of the person who made it.
– Notes regarding the item (Vegan, Gluten-free, made with eggs, tips on serving, etc.)
– At least 5 lines where interested parties can offer an item and list their name

About an hour after attendees arrive, you’ll want to encourage them to make a few offers (as a rule of thumb, I only put 2 bids down for every item I brought) and usually by hour two, the swapping is ready to commence. The bid sheets do nothing more than serve as a guide, a list of opportunities to swap for the goods offered. More often than not, a lot of the swaps are done “freestyle”, but it is surprisingly free of chaos and everyone leaves happy with what they traded for and a some new friends for good measure.

(My haul from a recent swap, Kombucha, chicken liver pate, vegan macaroons, heirloom applesauce and goji berry bark!)


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