In wealthy Dubai, poor get free bread from machines

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With the cost of living surging, free hot bread distribution for the poor has been introduced in Dubai, a rich Gulf emirate where millionaires rub shoulders with hard-working migrants.

The city of skyscrapers soaring above the desert, which imports almost all of its food, has been impacted by rapidly rising consumer prices, a global trend exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ten vending machines were installed last week in supermarkets, with a computer touch screen allowing people to select different types: loaves for sandwiches, pitta bread or flat Indian-style chapatis. The machine has a credit card reader — for donations not payment.

“A friend told me there was free bread, so I came,” said Bigandar, a young man from Nepal who works at a car wash, not wanting to give his full name.

Like millions of Asian migrants, he dreamt of making a fortune in the United Arab Emirates. He headed for Dubai, a city that has earned a reputation for conspicuous consumption and excess.

According to government figures from the Dubai Statistics Centre, the food price index, which tracks the monthly change in the cost of a basket of food commodities, rose by 8.75% in July, year on year.—AFP

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