– Ukrainian refugees travel from faraway places to buy a bag of groceries
The demand for free food in Manezh has risen sharply since the outbreak of the Ukraine war. The responsible association is concerned.
If you get off the Sihltalbahn train at Manegg station on a Saturday, you’ll notice that it can get tight on the platform. Many people carry large bags with them and walk along Allmendstrasse, past the new buildings in the urban development area known as Greencity in the south of Zurich.
As delivery trucks from Coop, Migros and Co head to the community playgrounds each week, a long queue forms in front of one of the old factory buildings that wraps around the block. A bag full of groceries – from tomatoes, eggs and oil to rice to hygiene products – awaits everyone who lines up on Saturday. In August 2021, the “Essen für alle” association moved to a warehouse in Manegg. Amin Diary Konde founded the association at the beginning of the epidemic and distributed food until the move to Zurich-Altstätten.
Some items are given to the association for free, says Diari Konde, and others are purchased. Condé, himself a former Guinean, has been living in Switzerland for eight years. He knows how hard it is to get under 1,000 francs a month. He calculates that “people with residence F have less than 500 francs to live on”. The recipients of the “Essen für alle” now come from all over Switzerland – the vast majority of Ukrainian refugees, most of whom are women. Strong upward trend.
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While 842 basic food packages were distributed in the last week of February, that number rose rapidly with the Ukraine war. At the end of April, there were already 1,757 packages. Last week, 2,207 of these packages were distributed to a total of 1,802 people. More than 300 people from the canton of Bern alone received food rations in the Maneg region last Saturday, as did people from Uri and Graubünden. Up to 33 Vaud families are registered with the Assembly of Manegg. “People don’t queue for three and a half hours for fun, and often endure up to three hours of driving time,” Conde says.
Dasha from Kharkiv waits with her two sons Misha and Hana despite the rain. The three family members who reside in the canton of Zurich must be content with 1,200 francs. Father fights in Ukraine. She shows videos on her mobile phone of how Russian shells fell in the vicinity of her hometown. Painter Jelena from Dnipro has been here since morning and is looking for an acquaintance. Her husband and son are still in Ukraine. It is now at the end of the long row.
A Ukrainian woman complains because a volunteer took a picture with her smartphone and suddenly wanted to call the police. Anonymity is appreciated, although everyone here for the first time is required to register. Conde is a diplomat, trying to defuse the situation and defending the Ukrainian-speaking aide. She defends herself, “I explained to my son how many people are here today and why I’m not home yet, I’ve been here since morning without a break.”
Transportation costs issue
More than 150 volunteers work in Manege on three shifts. Approximately 16 to 20 tons of food go away every Saturday, the value of which is about 40 francs per person. At the same time, the food purchased has also become more expensive since the start of the war: rice has risen from 1.60 francs per kilo to 2.10 francs, Conde explains. The real major problem, however, is the fuel costs, because deliveries and in-kind donations, some of which are free, must first be moved to the Manegg area. The club does not have its own car.
In the warehouse behind the dining table, where already empty boxes piled up in the late afternoon, the association bought several tons of rice in reserve, which had not yet been paid for – as a precaution. “We can’t turn people away empty-handed if they wait three hours,” Conde says. Even if the offer is for everyone and treats Ukrainian refugees specifically: the founder has not been entirely happy since the sudden increase in the number of people seeking help.
“Everyone can do something.”
Amin Diary Konde, Founder of Food for All
“When you receive people here, you have to think about how you will take care of them,” Conde says. Although his association can use the depot for free, it does not receive any financial support from the city, canton, or federal government. However, he does not want to make explicit demands to the authorities. “Anyone can do something,” Conde says.
Anyone who wants to support Eat for All will find it here All information. Assistance in food distribution, premises rental, food and monetary donations are required.
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