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Milwaukee local leaders and parents help others amid baby formula shortage

A woman shops for baby formula in Annapolis, Md., on May 16. Only a handful of companies supply baby formula in the country, a factor that has contributed to the current shortages being experienced in parts of the country.
Jim Watson
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Getty Images
A woman shops for baby formula in Annapolis, Md., on May 16. Only a handful of companies supply baby formula in the country, a factor that has contributed to the current shortages being experienced in parts of the country.

Supply chain issues, a recall and flooding at a major manufacturer’s facility are all reasons for the nationwide baby formula shortage.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, baby formula production has risen by 30 to 50% as of June 17.

But Samantha Wiegele says families are still in need.

Wiegele is a moderator and creator of the Facebook group called Milwaukee Formula Parents. Members of the group post photos of store shelves, provide advice and make requests for specific brands and types of formula.

Wiegele says she expected the group to serve dozens of families. Now, she’s stunned by how kind the group’s 3,000 members have been.

"I am so surprised by how generous people are being," she says. "A lot of people are selling or trading their formula, but there are so many parents that are giving away formula for free."

Wiegele says free formula has been especially important for parents on the Wisconsin Women, Infants and Children Program or WIC.

"While they might be able to find somebody selling that formula, they can't afford to buy it. So a lot of people are then donating for parents on WIC to get to get them the formula that they need."

Wiegele created the group on May 12 after wondering how she would feed her now 11-month-old daughter.

"That’s when everything went off the shelves," she says. "I had five cans at home that I had reserved for when she would be going on to the next bottles. Four of the five were a part of the recall. That was pretty scary going from a couple of weeks worth of formula to a week's worth. So, it was definitely a scary moment for me when I went to from a lot to a little."

Tamir Kaloti, president at Hayat Pharmacy, says his family has used the Facebook group.

"I have a 5-week-old baby boy at home, and we also use baby formula," Kaloti says. "For my wife and I, it's been a topic of anxiety for us being worried about whether we're going to have enough formula and whether we're gonna be able to feed him or not."

On June 14, Hayat Pharmacy donated over 1,000 cans of formula to families in collaboration with Capri Communities, Milwaukee Diaper Mission and Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic. Organizers say the event provided up to 30,000 infant feedings.

"It was very heartwarming seeing families come in and how relieved they were to have some help," Kaloti says. "Because lots of families have been going to different store shelves, stores, anywhere that sells baby formula, and all they're finding are shelves, there's nothing there."

Wiegele says along with the physical and mental health concerns created by the shortage, getting scammed is another problem.

"The biggest ones that I'm seeing is people coming in from out of state and saying, 'in North Carolina, we have plenty of formula, we don't have a shortage here, let me ship formula to you,' and parents are in desperate need," she says. "They'll Venmo the money for the formula, plus shipping and then when it's time to receive the formula, they're gone, and they can't get their money back."

To prevent scams, moderators are approving each post and asking sellers to post photos with the date written on a sheet of paper.

Wiegele says if families can’t find formula to first contact their pediatrician. While baby formula production is on the rise and is being imported from other countries, Wiegele hopes the shortage will change how formula is made in the U.S.

"I'm hoping that production will go up as well as people will realize that it's probably a bad idea to only have a few factories of formula here in America," she says. "I hope that things happen in the future to make sure that this can be prevented from happening again."

In the coming weeks, Kaloti says Hayat Pharmacies will begin carrying Enfamil NeuroPro. He says the product was highly requested during the formula giveaway. People can find the formula first at Hayat Pharmacy, 807 W. Layton Ave., where it will be sold at the price the pharmacy paid for it.

Corrected: June 23, 2022 at 4:45 PM CDT
We previously stated baby formula would be sold at market price, but formula will be sold at the price the pharmacy paid for it.
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