It was during a trip to Sarasota, Florida that South Jersey resident Lauren Vitagliano stumbled upon the concept of a food swap.
During her trip, she found that between 25 and 50 participants, mostly unknown to each other, would meet to trade unique homemade food items such as bread and pasta, jars of jam or condiments, fresh produce from a kitchen garden and even infused spirits or flavored liqueurs.
“It really appealed to me,” Vitagliano said. “I’m passionate about all things food, especially anything homemade, local or artisan.”
Vitagliano had often swapped homemade food items with a friend but thought it would be fun to do on a larger scale. She looked for a food swap to attend but couldn’t find one near her home in Atlantic County, New Jersey, so she planned her own.
Her first swap is scheduled for Saturday, May 19 at The Sweet Life Bakery in Vineland.
“It’s a lot of work making goodies from scratch but so wonderful to share with others who appreciate the effort, art and craft,” she said.
The protocol for swap events is organized and simple. Register for the swap in advance. Items must be prepared or grown by the person offering them. Bring the amount of items you want to trade, all the same or a combination. Upon arrival, check in with the host then set up your offerings — tables and “swap sheets” are provided. Scope out the other goods on display and make silent offers by adding your name and trade offer to the item’s swap sheet. Locate the interested swappers and swap your items. Swaps are one-for-one and no money is exchanged. A typical food swap lasts about two hours.
Food swaps appeal to homesteaders and homemakers, gourmands and grand-moms. Many participate to save money, others prefer the flavor of homemade to store bought products and many seek out locally-produced food options.
Goods at a food-swap are offered in protective, individual packaging that contains and clearly identifies the amount being traded. Often, an ingredients label is attached.
Vitagliano says she would like local food swaps to become monthly events.
“I hope it can unite the food community in South Jersey. We have a great local-food culture here,” Vitagliano said. “We need to pay more attention to where our food comes from and how it’s made. After all, this is the Garden State.”
She says she will bring jars of Jersey-peaches, fresh pasta and rhubarb liqueur to trade for anything from foraged food to granola, fruit leather, spice mixes or honey. Fresh eggs from “One Flew Over farm” will be offered at the May 19 event and, rumor has it, sweet meringue-based confections called French macarons will also be up for grabs.
If you’re interested, don’t forget to pre-register. Vitagliano says only 25 swappers will be admitted this time.
Jersey Bites is a collaborative website of food writers in New Jersey. They write about restaurants, recipes, food news, food products, events, hunger relief programs, and anything else that tickles their taste buds.