Food Swap Update and Exciting Developments

Lacto-fermented pickles
Hello food swappers! Mandy, A-K, and I hope that you are having a wonderful February and enjoying our disturbingly mild weather as much as we are. Oddly enough, I find that my desire to hole myself up in my kitchen is drastically lessened this winter. Is it because stepping outside doesn’t feel like torture? Possibly, yes.

Thank you for all your supportive emails over the last few months as we’ve been living swap-free due to our conversations with the Department of Health and Department of Agriculture (learn more about that here and here). We’ve been, as one might say, in a bit of a pickle  – albeit it a really good homemade one.We miss seeing your smiling faces and tasting your marvelous foods. Most of all, we miss the warm feeling of community and friendship. Your questions and comments have shown us that you are truly committed to our community and the idea behind this event. If you’ve sent an email or commented on the blog and didn’t get a response, please rest assured your message did not go ignored! We have been working with our contacts within the city and state to get clarification on a number of issues, and until recently, were struggling to find a clear direction.  All of this in addition, of course, to our full-time jobs, busy schedules, and other commitments. Yikes!

Our contacts at the city and state have told us that one of the primary issues at hand is the way that state statutes define a sale.  According to their interpretation of state statute, exchange and bartering, according to state statute, is a form of sale. In their view, that could mean a transaction at one of our swaps needs to be regulated the same way as if it were a cash transaction for a product. Because of this, they believe we are technically required to abide by all laws and regulations dealing with the sale of food.So, what about the Pickle Bill? Doesn’t it protect us, you ask? This is one of the most common pieces of feedback we have received over last few months. The “Pickle Bill” (M.S. Chapter 28A.15 Subd.10) is a piece of state legislation that allows the limited sale of certain home-processed and home-canned foods. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s a easy fact sheet.

Unfortunately, according to the Department of Health and Department of Agriculture, this bill doesn’t exactly apply to our situation and offers us little to no protection. Additionally, even if we were to abide by the rules of the Pickle Bill, it would likely drastically limit the types of products that we would be able to exchange (see the fact sheet for further details). It would also require that participants clearly label all their foods and pH test everything. And, regulatory authorities could still request proof of pH results and recipes. Mandy, A-K, and I have no interest in wading through this kind of regulation in order hold these events and exchange our lovingly produced food items with each other. That level of government regulation stands in polar opposition to the kind of empowerment that we hope to instill in our community.

We miss the food swaps dearly. And certainly, we could continue to hold swaps in private locations. However, our organization group is now very much in the public eye. We’re trying to keep a good rapport with city and state regulatory bodies, and because of this, we are still choosing to postpone food swaps until further notice.

Given our organization’s visibility, we don’t want to share our plans and ideas here about how we hope to handle this until we have a clearly defined action plan. Within the next month, we should have a clear, definitive path and be able to cut through the vague discussion of this issue. At that point, we’ll be very excited to partner with as many of you as are interested in creating and supporting an action plan.

In the meantime, we want to keep our community engaged. We are passionate about using food as a means to bring people together and create dialogue. Thus, A-K, Mandy, and I are working on an event called FoodTalks, to kick off in late March. FoodTalks will feature a potluck-style meal and a series of short talks given by attendees about a variety of food-centered topics. Share a story about a traditional family recipe. Discuss issues of food access in your neighborhood. Talk people through what to look for when buying a new knife. Share your experience with going gluten-free. The options are endless! We are imagining that each FoodTalks event will have 5-6 presenters, with talks lasting 5-10 minutes in length.

Talking about food while eating food with like-minded folks. Is there anything better?

Mandy, A-K, and I are currently pinning down the final details of the first event, and will share information as soon as it is available in regards to registration and how to sign up to give a talk. Until then, hold tight and brainstorm ideas. We are feeling really positive about the future of the MPLS Swappers, and will let you know when we are ready to engage you in this process.Thanks for your continued enthusiasm and support, and stay tuned!

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Comments
2 Responses to “Food Swap Update and Exciting Developments”
  1. Can the food items be gifted to each other?

  2. Kim Curran-Moore says:

    Love the food talk idea!

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