How to Start A Weekly Food Exchange
Savannah Kruger's recipe for
Boulder Food Exchange
A food exchange is what happens when a group of people all make a large amount of food, put said food into mason jars, get together, and swap the jars. They all leave with a diverse set of meals to eat over the course of their week. It's cooperative meal prep. It's a magical positive-sum social game. It's super wholesome and delicious. Here's how you start your own: First, you need to ask yourself what set of dietary preferences aligns with you. Paleo, organic, ethical meat, vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, carnivore, no peanuts, whatever. Then you need to assemble a group of people who also fit that set of dietary preferences. Invite friends and neighbors. Post about it to some local Facebook groups and on socials. The key is to reach people in your area code, some of whom you may not yet know. Ask prospective members if they have the flexibility in their lifestyle to make a large amount of food 1x a week (2 hours+ time commitment) and come to a weekly gathering to swap the food (30 min+ time commitment, not including travel time). Doing a food swap is a time saver in most cases, but not everyone has the space or is willing to make the space in their schedule to make a commitment like this work. Additionally, ask if they have any allergens or other dietary restrictions and assess with your group if you all are willing to accommodate their needs. If your group ends up with a bunch of easily forgettable dietary restrictions / food preferences, make a document so people can reference it when shopping and cooking. Start a group message thread. Here you'll discuss logistics, who's making what each week (good for not making the same thing), how many jars everyone's making, and celebrate how delicious the dishes are. Find a solid location where your group can meet on a weekly basis. The home of someone in the group is ideal, even more ideal if that someone doesn't lock their door and your group can let yourselves in when they're away and still swap. A picnic table in a park works well for warmer months. A coffee shop could work too, though it's not great if there are no empty tables. Find a day and time each week that folks can come to consistently. Early in the week is nice because it feels like you have your food sorted for the rest of the week in your head. Then hold your first swap! It's great if you start your swap with a check-in question. It can be anything from "What are you excited about these days?" to "What turns you on?" to "What have you read recently that's inspiring you?" Then after each person shares their answer to the check-in question, they share with the group what they made, the ingredients, and any relevant aspects of the cooking experience they want to share. Having this chance to share a little of who we are with the group is what helps build bonds. Now it's time to actually swap the jars. This can be done in a number of ways. One method is everyone puts 1 jar into the center of the group, someone goes first and picks the jar they want (a more orderly way to facilitate this). Then the next person in the circle picks the jar they want and so on until there are no jars left in the middle. Then everyone in the group each puts 1 jar into the center and the person who went second in the last round now goes first in choosing which jar they want. This process of rounds continues until all the jars are gone. Another way to swap is for everyone to put 1 jar into the center. Then everyone picks which jar they want at the same time (a little more chaotic). The group then repeats this step again with another jar until there are no more jars. Experiment with the group to find which ways of swapping jars leave everyone with a good mix of jars.