The First Philly Food Swap

September 26, 2011(updated on December 16, 2023)
first Philly Food Swap

Last Thursday, after multiple months of planning, the first Philly Food Swappers gathering landed in the basement of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia (many thanks again to the church for donating their space). There were homemade jams and jellies, jars of granola, batches of hand pies, vodka infused with horseradish, tea blends, cheese spreads, butters, salsas and jars of hot buttered rum batter.

first Philly Food Swap (132)

I’ve been watching the food swap movement with great interest for the last couple years. According to Kate Payne’s list, there are more than 40 swap groups regularly trading homemade food in the US, Canada and UK. I’ve been dreaming about making it happen here for some time, but never had the time to add another juicy task to my overflowing list of to-dos. But then something wonderful happened.

first Philly Food Swap

I heard from Georgia, who was also interested in pulling a food swapping group together. At the same time, Alexis and Amanda were chatting about it. Once Alexis and I made the connection, we were a planning group of four. Suddenly it felt possible. We picked a date, found a location and put the word out.

first Philly Food Swap

There were nearly 40 people at our first food swap. The diversity of offerings was incredible, as were the many dishes shared on the potluck table. Everyone was kind, generous and so excited to be sharing what they’d made.

first swap haul

I traded three kinds of jam (Pear vanilla. Plum star anise. Peach amaretto vanilla.) for a universe of good stuff. Homemade yogurt. That hot buttered rum batter. Black forest preserves. Caramel pear butter (from Taylor, who wrote a great recap of the event). A pint of granola. Hot chile jelly. Masala applesauce. Spicy cheddar, bacon and chive spread. Veggie marinara. A granola round. Pumpkin bread.

We haven’t set the date for the next Philly Food Swappers event, but will be soon. We’re thinking sometime in the lull between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Follow the Facebook page to stay tuned.

And if you want to start your own food swapping group, make sure to visit Kate’s food swapping page for details and links to other groups.

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36 thoughts on "The First Philly Food Swap"

  • Thanks for highlighting the food swap movement.

    I’ve been informally swapping my jams with people this summer, and so far have gotten a gallon of Hope Hummus, local natural face cream, soap, and shampoo from Sagescript, honey, pickles, jams, fruit butter, salsa, and some sausage from one of our local chefs.

    I’ve just signed up with the Mile High Swappers, and am looking forward to participating in my first swap next month. I hope they have items as lovely as you discovered.

    How does the bidding work?

    -the redhead-

  • Black Forest Preserves, what?!? That sounds wonderful! Recipe? Sounds like a great event, too bad I’m in No. Kentucky.

  • Hi! This is a great idea. I am in Philadelphia, and would love to hear more about the next swaping event on your blog if possible. I am not on Facebook and would still like to be in the loop! Looks like a lot of fun!

    1. Lauren – email phillyswappers at gmail dot com and we’ll put you on the mailing list! Would love to see you at the next event!

  • This is so cool! I am just getting into jams and pickles and I have all these plans for winter fruits and vegetables, thinking I would be able to send stuff home to my family for Christmas. Yesterday I realized that most of my family isn’t that interested in jams and especially not pickles so I have been looking for other ideas for homemade gifts. I found a ton of ideas here on your site (granola, chex mix, vanilla extract and even the dijon mustard all in jars!), but this will be a great way to find some other homemade gifts for my family without money changing hands! I am hoping to participate in Portland’s December swap, right before sending things home to my family for the holiday.

    Thanks for such an amazing blog (and resource!)

  • Congrats on your swap!

    We just started a food swap in my town as well, in Sarasota, Florida. What a great way to build community and stock your pantry! (I also just wrote an article about the food swap movement for the fall issue of Bamboo Magazine – – set to release soon.)

  • Okay, I did (somewhat) read this entire post but HONESTLY, you lost me at vodka infused with horseradish. Did you taste it?! What would you do with it? I want to try it, regardless!!

    1. You’d use the vodka to make the BEST bloody mary evah! And thanks for this post…I’d LOVE to get something like this organized in my town. Fantastic idea. I trade with friends and family that also can/preserve, but this takes it to a whole new level….so awesome.

      1. Oh, Amy! Good idea!

        And I traded food in jars this weekend! Got a haircut for some grape jelly. And I bribed the flea market lady in my town with some pickled okra to keep collecting canning jars for me (and she sent me home with some free jars, too).

  • Awesome, I love it!! We have a regular monthly swap in San Diego, and every month it gets bigger and better! Way to go!

  • Great post! It inspired me to find a food swap here in MA & I did! Also, I am totally making horseradish vodka for my Bloody Mary-loving friends!! Thanks!

  • That looks so fun! Thanks for posting the link to The Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking, I found a food swap in Seattle in two weeks. Can’t wait!

  • Wow, sounds like a great and fun event. You gave up some really great things for some other great things 🙂 Wonder if there’s any swaps in SW MI, if not I’d almost like to get something started here. How do you make sure that the foods brought in are done in a way that is “food safe”?

  • I made a beeline for your table so I could get some of that peach amaretto vanilla jam. I haven’t been able to make myself open it yet, I feel like I should save it for a special occasion!

  • This is outstanding! I just tweeted about it (@mickeyfitch) and really hope I can help to pull something together in northern WI/MN like this. Just taught myself how to can, dehydrating now, and building an apple press this week….

  • I so want to do this in Chicago! My concern is getting the word out. How did you do it? Was it mostly food bloggers who came to the swap?

    1. There is a google group for people in Philly interested in bulk produce buying, so it went there first. Then it was word of mouth, a few blogs/tweets. I think Chicago is an excellent place to start one! If there are any local food bloggers contact them. Its easier when you are working with a few people. Good luck!

    2. I live in chicago and would love to be involved in getting a swap together, at the very least, participating in one. I think getting people involved wouldnt be too hard. FB, twitter, personal mailing lists, local foodie message boards…I bet I know 20 people who would come! there is a FB page called Chicago Food Swap but I dont know the person behind it or the status of the group. (funct or defunct?) 🙂

  • I love this story. Kate’s so inspirational – and now this post – I’ve got to get the DC area canning peeps into this swapping thing. Your loot looks AMAZING!

  • *teehee* I see my friend Albert in your photos! I’d know that ponytail anywhere. Glad it was a success – I’d love to organize something similar here in Pittsburgh.