Finding Baby Formula During the Shortage: A Guide for WIC & SNAP Recipients
This information is current as of May 23, 2022.
Remember how stressful it was finding toilet paper during the onset of the pandemic? Imagine how stressful it is for parents searching for baby formula or baby milk to feed their children. Unfortunately, this terrifying situation is a current reality for parents. This issue is especially affecting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) recipients.
Many low-income families, SNAP, and WIC recipients wonder how and where they can find baby and infant formula during the formula shortage of 2022? Read on to learn tips and information we hope helps those searching for answers and ways to find formula.
Why Is There a Baby Formula Shortage?
The first question you may have, is why? Why is there a baby formula shortage? Many formulas have been out of stock due to pandemic-related supply-chain issues and ingredient shortages earlier this year.
This became even more serious in February. That is when Abbott, one of the four major formula manufacturers in the US, conducted a voluntary recall of its products due to questionable contamination with Cronobacter sakazakii. The recall included the popular Similac formula manufactured at the company’s Sturgis, Michigan facility.
How the Baby Formula Shortage Affects WIC & SNAP Recipients
The baby formula shortage is especially challenging for low-income families. If using WIC or SNAP to pay for formula, families are unable to stock up. Urban parents may not have easy access to warehouse stores like Sam’s Club or Costco.
Recently the federal government has allowed WIC, the Women, Infants, and Children’s program more flexibility in what types of formula WIC can provide. Prior to that, WIC benefits allowed mothers to purchase only certain types of formulas. WIC is allowing mothers to buy alternative formulas to the brands they used to buy with WIC benefits.
WIC currently has waivers in place to add other formula choices and size options for impacted specialty formulas. However, finding any brand of formula right now is not easy.
What Is the Government Doing to Help the Formula Shortage?
The Biden-Harris Administration is working to ensure that infant formula is safe and available nationwide to address infant formula shortages. Recently, President Biden met with retailers and manufacturers, including Walmart, Target, Reckitt, and Gerber, to talk about how to get more formula quickly and safely into stores.
A series of actions, including cutting red tape on the types of formula available for purchase, calling on the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general to stop any price gouging and unfair market practices, and increasing the formula supply through imports from other countries.
Today’s production is above pre-recall levels, and various products and sizes are now available. However, families still have trouble finding infant formula — especially families of about 5,000 infants and older children and adults with rare diseases that depend on specialty formulas.
Operation Fly Formula
As the White House works to combat the shortage, news outlets reported that a military aircraft carrying about 78,000 pounds of formula arrived from Germany on Sunday May 22. This shipment consisted of specialized formula for children unable to take regular formula. The supply provides one-week for 9,000 babies and 18,000 toddlers.
More flights are expected in the coming days. Normally when transporting products from Europe to the U.S., the wait could be two weeks. Operation Fly Formula cut the wait down to approximately three days.
Where and How Can I Find Baby Formula?
If you cannot find baby or infant formula, please check the following resources:
- Gerber’s MyGerber Baby Expert offers you access to a certified nutrition or lactation consultant by phone, text, Facebook Messenger, web chat, or video call. In addition, this expert can help you identify formulas like what you’re looking for that may be more readily available.
- Abbott’s Consumer Hotline is 1-800-986-8540
- Abbott’s Urgent Product Request Line – Download and complete this form. Ask your infant’s pediatrician or your OBGYN to submit an urgent product request.
- Reckitt’s Customer Service line is 1-800-222-9123
- Community Action Agency (CAA) – your neighborhood CAA may be able to connect you with local agencies that have formula in stock or can even provide you with extra formula.
- United Way’s 2-1-1 provides community resource specialists who can help you find food pantries and other infant formula and baby food sources near you.
- Feeding America – reach out to your local food bank – they may have infant formula and other supplies in stock.
- Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) – certain HMBANA-accredited milk banks give donated breast milk to mothers in need. However, some milk banks require a prescription. Find an HMBANA-accredited milk bank.
Contact your local WIC office to find or obtain additional infant formula nearby.
You may want to check smaller stores in your area that may not be as popular as grocery or big box stores. It also does not hurt to call your OBGYN or pediatrician to see if they have in-office samples. If not, they may be able to suggest a formula that is currently available in stores and is nutritionally like your infant’s usual formula.
Experts say NOT to water down formula! Avoid making formula at home or use toddler formula to feed infants. Do not discard formula unless it is expired or is part of the recall. Here is a list of frequently asked questions and answers that may also help.
Check your formula’s lot code to see if the recall affected it. There is a chance your formula is safe. There’s a chance your formula is safe.
For more guidance, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics.
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