I recently read this article in the East Bay Express about an organized food swap in the East Bay area, outside of San Francisco. Local residents meet regularly to barter produce grown in their own gardens, eggs collected from their own backyard chickens, and prepared dishes cooked and baked in their own kitchens. This is a wonderful practice for two reasons.
First, California is considering passing a cottage food law, which would allow food artisans to prepare non-hazardous products liked baked goods in their home kitchens and sell them to the public. Many states already have such laws on the books. As it is now, individuals trying to launch food businesses in California must rent commercial kitchen space – a cost that is often prohibitive for those just starting out. This is detrimental to the local food movement and efforts to create food systems that provide healthier, more affordable, and more environmentally responsible alternatives to the corporate food system. The success of organized food swaps demonstrates the fact that there is a demand for food grown and prepared in local communities and highlights the need for a cottage food law in California. What is more, allowing individuals to launch food businesses from their own homes will provide many families with the opportunity to gain additional income, which is certainly important in the current economic climate.
Next, the food swaps are important because they demonstrate the salience of bartering. The media constantly tell us how young adults have it harder these days than their parents had it decades ago. It is more difficult for Americans to achieve a comfortable lifestyle than it used to be, let alone financial security. Many young adults are saddled with thousands – if not tens of thousands – of dollars of student loan debt. In an economic climate that makes it more difficult to afford life’s basic comforts, it is important to remember that we do not always need to rely upon large corporations for our consumer goods. Bartering and engaging in peer-to-peer transactions is a viable way to save money and circumvent the corporate system.