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Baby Formula Crisis Triggers Response from Churches, Pregnancy Centers

May 18, 2022

While America’s supply chain woes are affecting many markets, few are more urgent than the baby formula crisis. Across the country, caregivers are scrambling to grab the last baby formula cans on the aisles of their local grocery stores. One of the top formula manufacturers in America, Abbott Nutrition, had to shut down one of their factories due to a bacterial contamination recall in February. According to research pricing organization Datasembly, the national out-of-stock rate hit a high of 43 percent last week, leaving many politicians and parents in a panic for solutions. A lot of grocers have placed limits on how much formula an individual shopper can purchase, while others are completely out, leaving desperate shoppers to drive miles to a store in hopes that they may still have formula in stock.

The Biden White House released an official fact sheet last week outlining their latest efforts in combatting the shortage, including expediting the production and selling of more formula, monitoring against price gouging, and importing formula. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is taking steps to ease the shortage, allow for formula production increases safely, and encourages manufacturers to import formula from outside the U.S. as a more immediate solution amidst the crisis.

“We are doing everything in our power as part of the all-of-government efforts to ensure there’s adequate product available wherever and whenever parents and caregivers need it,” FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf said in an official statement. According to a press release from Abbott, the company will be able to reopen the formula manufacturing site two weeks after meeting the FDA’s stipulations, which would mean consumers may begin seeing the formula back on shelves in an additional six to eight weeks.

However, for mothers and infants depending on formula feeding, eight weeks isn’t fast enough. Amidst the political disputes and panic buying, real Americans are feeling these hard-hitting supply chain ripples at home, and for many, it is frightening. One mother, Kayzie Weedman, took to TikTok in a viral clip where she documented her experience walking into grocery stores and pharmacies and not finding the prescription formula needed to feed her baby with dietary sensitivities.

“So what am I to do when I go to the shelves and can’t get my formula I need, the pharmacist who fulfills her [baby’s] prescription formula can’t fill it because they can’t get it, it’s backordered six months, and I just have to sit there and stare at empty shelves and not know what I’m going to do next.” Weedman asked. “So I’m home again, formula is not available on any of the shelves, They’re empty. Nowhere near three hours near me. Can’t get the formula. What are we going to do?”

Many churches, charities, and pregnancy centers have positioned themselves as beacons of hope for the mothers and babies in their communities. Churches across the nation, such as Grace Baptist Church in Parker, Colorado, and West Side Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas are handing out formula to those in need. Pregnancy resource centers have also been a saving grace for mothers trying to nourish their babies. Helping Hands Pregnancy Resource Center, a pro-life organization in Michigan, has been sharing the overflow stock of baby formula that they garnered during the pandemic with their clients and with the broader community.

Janet Durig, Executive Director at Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center in Washington, D.C., told Family Research Council, “We have a small amount of formula that has been donated to us, and we’re helping by giving that out to people.”

And the reaction of mothers upon finally receiving baby formula for their child? “Grateful,” Durig commented. “Relieved.”

Marjorie Jackson is a reporter for The Washington Stand and FRC's Digital Media Specialist.