Long Beach food swappers exchange goods at an event last summer. Photo: Long Beach Food Swap’s Facebook.
Do you have an avocado tree that produces 50 avocados the size of your head and have no idea what to do with them? Do you love baking, but don’t want to eat all that you make? Are you trying to find a new recipe or just want to try new food? Then food swapping might be for you.
This Saturday January, 19 at 6PM, the Long Beach Food Swap will be gathering in Downtown Long Beach in the Bungalow Building to trade a variety of homemade and homegrown foods. Started last summer by foodie friends Jennifer Ammirato and Mary Fekjar, the Long Beach Food Swap group (or the “LBC Swappers”) has so far presented three events, each attracting more and more local gardening, cooking and baking talent.
Jennifer Ammirato and Mary Fekjar decided to create a place where Long Beachers can swap their excess food or foraged fruits and veggies after discovering that Long Beach — despite its growing urban farming community — was devoid of such a thing.
“Surprisingly, the city didn’t have one,” said Ammirato, a longtime home gardener and Farmlot 59 volunteer.
Hearing of the then-year-old Los Angeles Food Swap, Ammirato and her daughter packed up a crate of supplies and headed up there, not knowing what to expect.
“We went to the L.A. swap with a crate of avocados and some jam and we left with kombucha, eggs, candy and bread,” she says of that first experience food swapping. “It was amazing. We came home with all this delicious stuff, and I was just sold after that.”
Ammirato says she found there homemade items that she had maybe thought to make, but never knew how and found advantages in being able to chat with the people that brought them and learn how to make stuff. For her, food swaps were about meeting like-minded people who “just want to share and have fun.”
Taking tools from the mother of all food-swapping sites, Food Swap Network, Ammirato and Fekjar discovered simple tools that could get them started on creating their own swap. When they discovered how simple it was, they knew Long Beach deserved its own food swap.
Finding a location to host what they estimated would be about twenty people for free proved be a little difficult, so Ammirato hosted the first couple swaps in her own backyard. However, she says that the swaps tend to gain about ten new people each time, making it a little more of a challenge to find venues, especially during the cold and rainy months. The community comes together to find different locations to hold the swaps.
Though it does run on an honor system, the formula for having a food swap is actually more organized then it may seem. Pre-registration is mandatory. One may register as late as a couple hours up to the event, but must register. The rest is listed out on the LBC Food Swap website:
Here are the top three things to keep in mind before your first swap:
- What to bring: Bring as few or as many items as you want. You can bring many of the same item or shake it up and bring all sorts of different items.
- Packaging: Keep in mind that swappers will be examining and picking up your goods, so be sure to package them in a way that protects the food and makes it clear the amounts you want to swap. We encourage reusable, earth-friendly packaging whenever possible. Don’t feel like you need to spend a lot of time decorating or composing fancy packaging unless you like to do it, that is.
- At the swap: Don’t get your feelings hurt if someone says no thanks to your swap item. Food is a very personal matter and a number of factors–like food allergies, personal preference, utility of the item in their kitchen–will influence someone’s decision to swap. Likewise, don’t be afraid to say no to someone. You wouldn’t buy something at the grocery store you’re not going to eat, so swapping because you don’t want to hurt a fellow swapper’s feelings isn’t expected of you at a swap. Sure, you can always swap and give away the item, but only if you have extra items to work with, which will not be the case for people who only bring a few items.
Long Beach’s food swappers are locals who love to cook, bake, grow and forage food. It is not a way for businesses to make money–it is a community event that encourages neighbors to get together and experience food in a way that is different from how urbanites typically do.
With the new year bringing new growing seasons (and the similarly minded Produce Exchange Long Beach starting up again February 16) the LBC Food Swap hopes it can expand by finding new venues in neighborhoods across the city and involving a wider swath of Long Beach’s food-makers and foragers.
“Everyone is so encouraging, and it’s a really fun community of people,” says Ammirato. “[Having the swap at different places would allow people] to just come in and experience what the location has to offer and meet different people.”
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