By Marissa Willman
Leave your wallets at home: homemade food, homegrown produce or foraged items are the only forms of currency accepted at the Coachella Valley Food Swap, a new group that trades food items monthly at Ironwood Park in Palm Desert.
Food swapping is already trendy in cities such as Pasadena and Brooklyn. After hearing about her mother’s and friend’s experiences at a food swap in Washington state, local resident Alex Napier was inspired to host a local food swap.
“I was hearing about how fun going to these food swaps and I was getting jealous,” Napier explained. “My mom was taking wine to the swaps and coming home with peach cobbler and granola.”
Napier searched for local swaps but could only find groups in the Los Angeles area. She decided against traveling more than 100 miles to attend a food swap because it would go against the spirit of the event.
“The whole point is to be local,” Napier said.
To keep with the local spirit of food swapping, Napier decided to attempt to organize a Coachella Valley swap. She spread the word among a few friends and was amazed at the enthusiastic response.
“Everyone was really enthusiastic because they saw it as an opportunity to meet people who enjoy the same interests,” Napier said. “Cooking and food—who doesn’t like that?”
Through Coachella Valley Food Swap, local bakers, cooks, canners, growers and foragers come together to share their goods and try new items. A food swap is held in two parts: first, swappers check out the goods on offer through a silent auction process. Swappers put their goods on a table and walk around to see what is available. If someone who brought canned peaches, for example, wanted to trade for homemade French bread, the canner would write down their offer on a piece of paper and give it to the baker.
About 15 minutes later, the actual swapping begins. All items brought to a swap should be prepared and packaged in a way that will be swapped equally on a 1-to-1 basis, Napier said. And if swappers have certain dietary restrictions or just aren’t thrilled with the offers they receive, they don’t have to trade.
“You’re not obligated to swap,” Napier said. “It’s just an offer.”
In May, Napier hosted the group’s first swap and received an enthusiastic response from the community.
“Over 40 people came to check it out,” Napier said. “25 people came with food to swap. It turned out to be a great group of people.”
Food swaps tend to bring a wide variety of items and Napier said she ended up with an assortment of goods.
“We came home with granola, a couple different varieties of homemade bread, different varieties of cookies, peanut brittle, caramel sauce, lemon curd and canned items,” Napier said. “People also brought fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, herbs and soups.”
The community is welcome to stop by to check out the next swap, scheduled for June 9th, and Napier has a few tips for new swappers.
“The more you can bring, the more you’re going to go home with,” Napier said, recommending bringing between 3 and 10 items. “And they don’t all have to be the same thing.”
Napier also encouraged new swappers to be mindful of making their packaging both appealing and durable.
“People are going to be looking at your food,” Napier said, “so you need to package it in a way that it’s okay for people to touch your merchandise.”
Napier hopes community interest will lead to more frequent swaps. To RSVP as a swapper for the June 9th food swap, sign up at CVFoodSwap.eventbright.com or call (206) 390-3027. For more information on Coachella Valley Food Swap, visit facebook.com/CoachellaValleyFoodSwap.