Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bartering abounds at inaugural Tampa Food Swap


The initial trade of the day took a page out of Bernie Madoff's playbook.

At the inaugural Tampa Food Swap held Saturday in Kate Jackson Community Park in Hyde Park, the first customer was an opportunistic squirrel who made off with a chocolate chai coconut bar, wrapper and all. Event organizer Gina Melton was unfazed by the theft, chalking it up to the difficulties that often accompany the launch of something new. A Tampa food blogger, Melton got the idea from fellow bloggers and online food communities.

A concept that has gained purchase in West Coast cities in the past couple years, a food swap is part DIY enthusiasm and part response to a continued bleak economy: Make your best dish, convene with fellow foodies, and begin to barter. No money changes hands. I'll trade you two jars of my bacon jam for one bag of your herbed grissini — what do you say?

The city of Tampa wasn't sure about the venture at first. Melton, an attorney by trade, was quick to point to Florida House Bill 7209, the Cottage Food law, which allows certain types of "cottage" food production in unlicensed home kitchens. Along with Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois and Texas, Florida put its new law into effect July 1, a clear response to the explosion of artisanal foods. Fed by the locavore movement, a dramatic rise in the number of farmers' markets, and thousands of underemployed food enthusiasts with entrepreneurial spirit, the country has seen unprecedented growth in cottage industry foods.

More potluck than business, a food swap is an opportunity to show off your cooking chops. Darla Smoak of Tampa brought the chocolate chai coconut bars (which, she points out, are a "super food" chock full of agave nectar, coconut oil and ground almonds, so we have high hopes for that squirrel), as well as banana bread cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting topped with bourbon pecan crunchies.

Promoting the event via Facebook and Twitter, Melton opened the swap only to registered participants. Kristin Lehman, an environmental scientist from St. Petersburg, is originally from Berkeley, Calif., where she had seen food swaps but never participated.

"I wanted to make pumpkin butter for this, but no stores had pumpkin," Lehman said as she unpacked her still-warm artisanal white breads and wheels of rustic rolls. Indeed, while Hurricane Irene made short work of pumpkin patches in the Northeast, it was hard to mourn the gourds too much as the smell of just-baked bread filled the park's picnic area.

Attendance at this first swap was low, with many no-shows despite the lovely cool weather. Still, Melton hopes to have dozens of registered swappers at her next event.

"This is not a fussy thing. It's casual and back-to-basics," Melton said as she arranged her bags of salted popcorn caramel and granola bars. "The aim is to bring out some interesting culinary finds as well as that competitive spirit."

Laura Reiley can be reached at or (727) 892-2293.

Bartering abounds at inaugural Tampa Food Swap 10/01/11 [Last modified: Monday, October 3, 2011 3:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Two boys in critical condition after Largo crash


    LARGO — A 7-year-old boy was thrown from a car in a head-on crash on Starkey Road, and both he and a 6-year-old boy were in critical condition Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  2. Trump's new order bars almost all travel from seven countries


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a new order banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Sunday upon his return to the White House in Washington.
  3. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  4. In Mexico City, hopes of finding quake survivors dwindle


    MEXICO CITY — Five days after the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the hulking wreckage of what used to be a seven-story office building is one of the last hopes: one of just two sites left where searchers believe they may still find someone trapped alive in Mexico City.

    Rescue workers search for survivors inside a felled office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City on Saturday.
  5. GOP health bill in major peril as resistance hardens among key senators


    WASHINGTON — The floundering Republican attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act met hardening resistance from key GOP senators Sunday that left it on the verge of collapse even as advocates vowed to keep pushing for a vote this week.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate, said Sunday that it was “very difficult” to envision voting for this health-care bill.