Local residents start new food swap group
by Carrie Steinweg
HAMMOND, Ind. (March 2018) – Everything old seems to become new again. A recently-formed group has gone old-school by making foods from scratch, growing their own produce, and bartering to exchange their creations without exchanging any money. It’s called the South Chicagoland Food Swap. The group meets every other month at greenCow Coworking in Hammond to trade what they make or grow.
Closer to home
Brittany Discher of Lansing had attended a food swap in Valparaiso and told her friend, Angela Wallace of Calumet City, about it. Wallace was intrigued and decided to look into starting a south suburban group.
“Brittany told me about this group she went to where people made a dish or a couple things and brought them and swapped them. I was so excited about the concept, so I kept picking her brain, and I said ‘Why can’t we start something like this closer to home?’”
Soon Wallace was looking for a meeting space and making plans. She visited the Northwest Indiana Food Swap and said, “It was exactly how I thought it would be. People from all over were bringing in what they are passionate about. There were people who have beehives in their yard or free-range chickens. Whatever they love, they were bringing it and sharing it with other people. You basically use your item as currency and get some wonderful things.”
GreenCOW Coworking donated a space, and the group was up and running. The first meeting happened last August, and Wallace brought her homemade peanut butter. She’s also brought homemade hummus, soup with homemade bread, and her husband’s homemade barbecue sauce. “Last time I decided to bring curry. It’s something I make all the time, but a lot of people didn’t know what to do with it,” she said. “It’s fun because people are being introduced to new foods that are common to other people.” One of her favorite things she received in a trade is spicy pickled cauliflower.
Discher brought strawberry lemonade as her trade item last month. “I used strawberry simple syrup that I made myself and added fresh squeezed lemonade. I put it in swing-top glass bottles, and they got to keep the bottle,” said Discher.
Megan Noort of Lansing brought jams and jellies to the last swap. Other months she has brought produce from her family’s garden. “It’s super easy and fun. You meet new people,” she said.
Sharing the surplus
Noort and her husband, Terry, started gardening a few years ago. Their outdoor garden keeps getting bigger, and now they garden indoors too. Terry grows herbs, peppers, lettuce, and other items year-round with special lighting. When the Noorts started food swapping, it was mainly to find a way share their surplus fresh produce so it wouldn’t go to waste.
She’s happy to have the opportunity to participate in a food swap without having to travel far or head to a rural area where farming and gardening is more prevalent. She wants to connect with others in nearby communities who see the value in growing your own food and who encourage others to do so. “My grandmother grew up on a farm, and around here, you don’t think much about farming,” said Megan. “It’s cool to show people what you can do.”
The only requirement for participation is that you bring something you have grown or prepared. “It has to be something you personally made, grew, or foraged,” said Wallace. “It can’t be something you bought at the store or that a neighbor made. You have to be able to say, ‘I made this, and I can answer questions about it.’”
Open to all
Also, all types of foods are welcome despite the common misconception there can sometimes be about food swaps being focused entirely on organics or vegan options. “At first I thought it had be organic items, but it’s not,” said Noort. “It can be something organic, or it can be something like homemade loaded-up brownies.”
Noort is the mother of an 18-month-old, a 4-year-old, and a 9-year-old. Her daughter, Kali, 9, has set up her own booth at the swap (with her parent’s supervision), trading peppers that she helped grow in their family garden. “There’s not really an age limit,” she said. “We were both right there to help her. It’s such an easy process, even a 9-year-old can do it.”
Wallace said that so far the swaps have had about 8 to 20 participants, but that they can accommodate many more who would like to come and trade.
How to participate
Items should be clearly labeled as to what they are and marked with the date prepared. Food should be packaged in one or two portion sizes. There is no fee involved.
Replies are requested on Eventbrite or via the Facebook page to help gauge how many to expect, but Wallace said they don’t turn people away the door. The space at greenCOW Coworking has tables, so you don’t have to bring your own. Wallace said some participants enjoy decorating their table, but it’s not necessary.
The next swap takes place on Sunday, April 22 (not April 21, as previously reported) from 3:00–5:00pm at greenCOW Coworking, 5209 Hohman Avenue in Hammond, Indiana.