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Data collection of pandemic-related, cost-free meal, food, and voucher charges in the city of Zurich

At a glance



The Covid 19 pandemic and its accompanying measures directly affect various sectors of the population. Numerous public and private institutions are providing assistance, including the distribution of food vouchers and reduced-price or free food and meals. During the 2020 lockdown, in addition to the offerings of existing providers, some of which diversified and greatly expanded their services, new food voucher offerings emerged and quickly became very popular. At the same time, there was a lack of knowledge about who these users were and what their short- and long-term needs were. Against this background, the Social Department of the City of Zurich commissioned the ZHAW Social Work to address these knowledge gaps as far as possible within the framework of a systematic study.

Aims of the study

The goal of the study was to provide an empirically based assessment of current and future challenges with regard to food distribution by various providers. In particular, it was important to clarify the different problem constellations that lead to food delivery and how the associated needs will develop in the short and longer term.

Design and method

The study was divided into three phases. In the first phase, interviews with managers and employees of the involved departments (N=35) served to identify and typify the most important problem constellations. The second phase was devoted to the sharpening and detailed description of the individual problem constellations (with regard to life situations, needs, utilization strategies, dynamics and perspectives). For this purpose, 36 interviews with affected persons from the different problem constellations as well as already existing data of the providers were used. In a third project phase, the results were integrated, interpreted and validated at a workshop with representatives from the participating organizations and the client.


Nine different problem constellations were identified in the study, which can essentially be determined along two dimensions, the financial situation or social insurance coverage and the residence status under immigration law:

  • 1. classic marginalized people with mental illnesses and/or addiction problems, some of whom are homeless; as a rule, they are supported by social welfare or social insurance.
  • 2. old, lonely people, usually with social welfare or social insurance support
  • 3. social welfare recipients
  • 4. people affected by poverty without social welfare support
  • 5. recipients of asylum assistance
  • 6. migrant workers and so-called "European migrants" without entitlement to social welfare or social insurance support
  • 7. sex workers, partly with, partly without entitlement to social welfare or social insurance support
  • 8. recipients of emergency assistance under asylum law
  • 9. sans-papiers without entitlement to social welfare or social insurance support.