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Ongoing baby formula shortage still felt locally

AP photo Michelle Saenz of Santee, Calif. buys baby formula at a grocery story across the border, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Tijuana, Mexico. As the baby formula shortage continues in the United States, some parents are opting to cross the border into Mexico, where the shelves are still stocked with options to feed their babies.

While government agencies are working to combat the shortage of baby formula in the United States, its impacts are being felt locally.

The shortage began after one of the biggest manufacturing plants in the nation, located in Michigan, shut down back in February due to safety issues. COVID-related supply chain problems also are to blame.

“The availability of this product is very sparse,” said Dan Brown, owner of Farm Fresh Foods in Jamestown. “Sometimes we can get these orders fulfilled, but sometimes we can’t. We’ve had more misses than hits when it comes to getting baby formula in.”

Susan Marker, child care council director for Chautauqua Opportunities, said the organization has been receiving several calls regarding availability of baby formula.

“We’ve been getting calls from day care providers, both centers and home-based,” Marker said. “They’ve all been looking for the formula. It has become a crisis in Chautauqua County. Some centers have had to decide to leave it up to the parents to find it.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that another step was being taken to combat the shortage by getting manufacturing companies such as Gerber and Rickett Mead Johnson to work together to create alternate brand formulas.

Funding for the project comes from the recently signed Access to Baby Formula Act.

The USDA has also been helping WIC — a special supplement nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children — and WIC participants in staying informed and offering guidance in order to keep infants safe.

Jamie Felt, assistant director of WIC in Buffalo, said securing formula for families who qualify for the program and providing them with correct information has been a priority.

“We started getting calls as soon as the shortage was on the news,” Felt said. “WIC has been working with families and our vendor management agency to get the knowledge out of when formulas will be available, when some plants will be reopening and keeping families updated.”

Felt recommended that families plan ahead and secure formulas when they can, and also do their own research.

“You can call ahead to stores and see if they have any in or a shipment coming in soon,” Felt said. “If you’re eligible for WIC you can call and talk to a nutritionist. We can discuss breast feeding as well if that is something that someone wants to try. We will give you the best answer we can and help keep families as up to date as possible to make sure babies are given safe food.”

Additionally, Felt said those not impacted by the shortage who want to help can donate formula to local agencies or food pantries. “WIC can’t accept donations, but you can donate to any local agency that accepts them, and you can always call places and find out whether or not they accept,” Felt said.

Felt encouraged those who are looking for help to apply for WIC.

“Even though all families are being affected in some way by the shortage, if you think you’re eligible, apply for WIC,” Felt said.

WIC can be reached at (716)218-1484.

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