WBUR

Marmalade For Trade: The Boston Food Swap

This report was compiled by Arthur-F.-Burns fellow Anne Allmeling.

BOSTON — If you’re interested in eating locally, you might try sharing your specialty with others — and get some homemade food in return. Picking up on a trend that started about a year ago in Brooklyn, N.Y., some locals have started up a food swap in Boston. It’s a monthly get-together that’s attracting foodies from all over the city.

(Flickr/Josh Liba)

(Flickr/Josh Liba)

Joe DiDuca is a real estate appraiser who loves homemade food. He’s come to the Boston Food Swap and is happy to have a place to share his specialty.

“I spent the better part of a year making jam, and I have cupboards full of jam, and I wasn’t really sure what to do with it,” DiDuca says.

So the food swap was a perfect solution.

Here is how it works: Let’s say you’d like a jar of Joe’s lime marmalade. You write your name on a list. Then you’ll also put what food item you’ve brought to swap. And then:

“One, two, three swap! Go.”

First-time food swapper Tricia Schwartz grabs her stash: a few parcels with half a dozen duck eggs.

“I have a list of seven people here who say they want the duck eggs, so I’m going to see who I want stuff from and I’m going to go over and see if they’re there to swap with now,” Schwartz says.

“The whole food movement is getting so big where people are looking for alternatives to the grocery stores and the industrial food system, and really looking at how they can get local stuff and do it themselves.”
– Tricia Schwartz,
first-time food swapper

There’s no need for money at a food swap. Like in prehistoric times, food is exchanged for food.

Or, in swap terms, you might get what Tricia got.

“I got focaccia, lemon butter, toffee, graham crackers, zucchini bread, mozzarella cheese and sweet potato peanut soup — I scored!” she says.

But food swapping doesn’t mean that you always get what you want. Especially if there isn’t that much of what you want. That’s what happened to Kendra Nordin.

“I didn’t get my No. 1 pick, which was the lime marmalade,” Nordin says. “Kind of disappointing, but I got a couple of surprise swaps; I wasn’t expecting to get strawberry jam, which is great -– it was just made in June.”

For Schwartz, there’s another reason these events have become so popular over the past few months.

“The whole food movement is getting so big where people are looking for alternatives to the grocery stores and the industrial food system, and really looking at how they can get local stuff and do it themselves. And so we’re all a big support group,” she says.

Contrary to a farmer’s market, the swaps are more about community-building and experimenting with food, says Lyn Huckabee*, one of the organizers in Boston.

“Here, there’s almost a little bit more of a gamble in that people like trying new things,” Huckabee says. “And so, yeah, something can go completely flat, but at the same time people will try something that’s really exciting and really different, so we actually get to experience the newest, exciting, most fun stuff.”

Fun stuff like lime marmalade.


Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled Lyn Huckabee’s name.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on wbur.org.
Most Popular