How to Start a Food Swap

How to Start a Food Swap

Want to start a food swap?

Or perhaps the better question would be “What exactly is a food swap?”

Food swaps are are a trend that is growing like crazy not only in Europe but in the U.S. as well.  A food swap is exactly what it sounds like — a group of people swapping food! Generally speaking these people gather together every month or so and to swap homemade, homegrown, or foraged foods.  Every food that we can eat that is homegrown or homemade keeps more trucks off the roads to deliver foods from faraway places.

Local foods are better for our bodies, better for our communities, and they help us keep the planet healthier too.

Based on the age old barter system, attendees make direct trades with each other for items they don’t make or have or items they may want to try.  For example, let’s say you bake amazing bread but don’t can and another member of your swap group does loads of homemade canned goods but doesn’t bake.  That’s a food swap in the making – a loaf of homemade bread for some great canned veggies. 

Food swaps are an excellent way to meet other homemade food enthusiasts, small farmers, cheese makers, etc., in your area and trade to sample their wares. 

Plan Your Own Food Swap

First, find a group of people interested in participating.  Post a notice on your neighborhood website, on Facebook or Twitter (start a dedicated page or account specifically for your food swap and include your general location), in your church bulletin or maybe at the local farmers market.

  Once you collect a list of members and their email addresses, you can start planning your food swap.

Here are some basic guidelines:

  1. Share the work – the easiest way to find help is within your own circle of friends.  Find a couple of people to share the planning and hosting duties. 
  2. Have some guidelines – keep it simple and require that all swap items be homegrown, homemade or foraged locally.  Swappers can bring as much or as little as they want to swap.  Most food swaps are done one for one so if you bring 5 items, you will probably leave with 5.  Think about how long you want your swap to last – most are about two hours. That gives everyone time to walk around and see what others are offering for trade. 
  1. Pick a location – when you start collecting email addresses, it will give you an idea of the level of interest so you will know how large a location you will need for the actual swap.  Ask people who want to attend to RSVP through your dedicated Facebook page or you can send out Evites.  Make sure your venue has a place to set up plenty of tables, offer some privacy to only attendees are there to sample, and doesn’t cost a fortune.  Part of the beauty of food swaps is the cost savings.
  2. Have a swap sheet – make a sheet for people to sign up – it should include their name, what they will bring to swap and anything special they think their fellow swappers should know about their items, and a place for other swappers to make offers of things they would like to swap for.

Not Sure What to Swap

If you’re not sure what to tell people when they ask what they can swap, remember the sky is the limit! Any food people might not make themselves but would like to try is a great place to start.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Homemade breads
  • Artisan or homemade cheeses or butter
  • Yard eggs or eggs from your own chickens
  • Homemade jams, jellies, and chutneys
  • Canned vegetables (carrots, pickles, beans, etc.)
  • Homemade granola or dried fruits

When planning your Food Swap, keep it simple but be creative and make it fun.  A nice potluck for attendees to sample goods or having it BYOB for people to have a social hour beforehand are great ways to build community among your food swap members.  That will go a long way toward creating a support system for your local farmers, bakers, and home cooks and getting more variety into everyone’s kitchen pantries.