{FSC SWAPPERS} A Place for Healing

May 2012 Troy Food Swap. Photo by Tim Raab

Food is social. Food connects people, strangers, friends, co-workers and family. Everyone eats. Food Swaps are a vehicle to bring all that is food and community into one place. Sometimes I forget that.

To be honest, I’ve been starting to take the our food swaps for granted. We hit the year mark back in April (24 completed swaps w/ 2 more before September) and I think I was getting a little dragged down by all the prep, planning, set-up, clean-up and all the other administrative stuff that happens around a food swap. I think its natural for this to happen as hosts ( w/ Christine in Troy and Deanna in Schenectady), I’m bogged down by all the nitty gritty and don’t get to enjoy being a 100% fully participating swapper. ‘Most months’ I swap, but it’s not the same. I end up only really ‘seeing’ about half the goods and don’t get much time to swap before I’m thanking people for coming, taking pictures, answering questions and the like. I’m a half-assed swapper. I’m not trying to whine, just pulling back the curtain for a second.

Truth be told, I also wasn’t sure what an impact the swaps were having in people’s lives beyond pre-prep & creating and the two hours of excitement. I know people are enjoying making, sharing and then swapping their loot … but was there more to the story?

My perspective did a complete 180 when I spoke with Swapper Tammy & her family after the latest Troy Food Swap. She had heard me talking to other attendees that our swap home, the Oakwood Community Center, might need to ‘show’ City Officials what events were taking place in the now-defunct church due to tax roll issues. Tammy spoke up at the end and gave me the brief rundown of her ‘swap story’ and said she would be willing to write it down or present at whatever meeting was needed to make sure these swaps, and other events at the Community Center, kept on rolling… I cried right there and then. When you read her ‘swap story’ below I’m sure you will join in me in the biggest “Interwebs” hug to Tammy, her sister, their children and everyone in their family.

I’m a believer again: food swaps are much larger than a simple single act of swapping of homemade food.

Thank you Tammy for your smile that lights up a room, for bringing your family into the FSC Swappers’ swap family and most importantly, for sharing your story: how the love of food and the swaps are helping make healing strides for your & your family. Thank you.

Doesn’t Swapper Tammy’s smile light up a room? Photo by Tim Raab.

Hi, I’m Tammy, I was at the Troy Swap today with four of my children, a friend, and my sister Jackie. We travel in to the food swaps from Western Massachusetts, and I started to tell you this as we were leaving. The whole way home, I was thinking about our story, what it is that draws us to the swap month after month. I thought I’d write it down.

I moved to Massachusetts from Albany in 2007. Later that month, our brother Mike died. He was our only brother, and the loss was unbearable. Only a few years later, our mother became terminally ill with cancer, and we lost her in May 2010. Jackie and I have shared too much sadness these past few years. She’s the only person on Earth who has shared identical losses to me, and I know the depth of what she’s gone through, and vice versa. We have also shared a lot of happiness- we have seven children between us, and life, inevitably, marches on. The loss of a mother is so different than that of a brother. Both are heartbreaking, but a mother lives on in the traditions, expressions, and love of food in a way that nobody else does.

Our mom would have loved the food swap. She would have been busily looking through her cookbooks, finding the best recipe that she thought would be the one to fill the dance card. She would have called us almost every day asking us our opinion on the different choices, and probably would have convinced us to try the winning recipe before she committed to bringing it to trade. At the swap, she’d be in her element talking with other people, sampling food, and laughing at inside jokes such as foods we all disliked. We would have all gotten together after the swap to have a look at everyone’s loot, trading further once we saw something each other wanted.

My sister and I meet at the swap each month, and for those moments leading up to the swap and then being together at the swap, we are just a little closer to our mom. I love sharing these happy food memories with her, and how much we have been able to laugh and reminisce about different things about my mom because of the food swap.

Each month we’ve come to the swap, more of my children have gotten involved with the process. My children love the swap as much as we do, and they busily prepare recipes as well. The food that they bring is almost entirely made by them, and I love to see the pride that they have in talking about how their items were made, how they will work up the courage to ask someone for a trade, and how they usually will trade the most with each other more than any other participants.

On the way back to Massachusetts, I was thinking about how absurdly inefficient it must seem for us to come across state lines to come to a food swap. And, as I was thinking that, I knew without a doubt that even if a local swap existed, we’d keep up this tradition. The swap is in between my sister’s home and my home, and it provides our large family with a monthly event that we can look forward to and bond over. Since I used to live in the Capital Region, we usually include a favorite restaurant to end the evening. I wouldn’t trade this connection to my past and to my sister for the convenience of a local swap.

Tammy & her swapping family.

When you took our picture today, I suddenly realized that I was providing my children with the same gift my mom provided me- a love of food, a tradition of food, and the experience of food that I know they will always have, even long after I’m gone. So… I just thought you should know this. We don’t take for granted the amount of timing, planning, and undue stress you must go through as the organizers. Thank you. Thank you for making food a powerful healing tool for both my sister and myself. Thank you for helping me find such a fun and creative way to share my love of food with my children. In the process, they are getting to keep that much more of my mom’s memory with them. My appreciation of the food swap is beyond words.

Take care,

Swappers chatting, June, Troy Food Swap. Photo by Christine

Wednesday, July 18th
First Unitarian Society of Schenectady, 1221 Wendell Avenue  Schenectady, NY 12308


{we are taking a one-month break from the Troy Food Swap due to summer vacations but we will be back August 19th with a HUGE HUGE HUGE HUGE swap & author event. An official announcement will be made in a few weeks but for the jump on things: go here.}


14 Comments Add yours

  1. Ona says:

    Thank You Tammy for sharing your personal story – you are an inspiration to me – and I’m certain to your children. Instilling that appreciation of good healthy food and community participation is wonderful. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that your children participate!!!

  2. Leah says:

    Love, love, love…

  3. Kate H. says:

    Tammy, you made me cry! I love the fact that your kids are involved in the swap – they are proud of what they brought and can’t wait to talk about what they’ve made and how to use it. We’ve become a community, even if we’re all from different places. Although it seems that the swap is about trading food, it’s even more about what we’ve creatively done during the past month and what we want to share with each other.

    Thank you so much for sharing your own personal story with all of us.

  4. Betsy says:

    Wonderful post Tammy!

  5. Deb says:

    Thanks for sharing Tammy! The swaps surely do go beyond the delicious food.

  6. Thanks so much to Tammy for sharing her story!

  7. thecleaneatingchallenge says:

    Hey there! I’m not sure where to post this but I just nominated you for The Very Inspirational Blogger Award. Congrats! Your blog is awesome! Here is the link:


    And this is what you are supposed to do:

    Display the award logo somewhere on the blog.
    Link back to the blog of the person who nominated you.
    State 7 things about yourself.
    Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award and provide links to their blogs.
    Notify those bloggers that they have been nominated and of the award’s requirements.

    Thanks for writing a great blog!
    Jo 🙂

  8. Seriously this made me cry as well. Thank you for sharing such a personal story with us all. I am a ‘Toga swapper, but am moving to Albany this month, and I can’t wait to meet the Troy group. This is what community is all about people! So stoked 🙂

  9. Tammy says:

    Thanks everyone for such kind, warm comments. Can’t wait to be back!

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