Baby formula shortage hitting WIC families hard

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Parents are starting to panic about a nationwide shortage of baby formula and formula for babies with allergies seems to be the most scarce.

As a parent, your priority is to make sure your babies and kids are fed and well but parents with young babies will tell you trying to find formula is not easy right now, trying to find specialized formula is even tougher and trying to find the right size cans so you can use government benefits, well, that’s becoming impossible for many.

Three-month-old Gianni Barbarita started his little life with stomach problems.

“He wouldn’t sleep, he was very, very uncomfortable so we went through different formulas,” explained his mom, Jenine.

Finally, they found the issue.

“The only one [formula] that worked was Nutramigen, he has an allergy to cow’s milk and that was a lifesaver,” she said.

But recently, finding it has been a challenge.

“I went to like seven different stores looking for it and I could barely find it,” Barbarita said, “honestly it kinda almost gets me choked up because it makes me scared.”

There is a nationwide baby formula shortage right now and over the past several weeks a series of issues has made it even tougher for families to find Nutramigen. Between pandemic-related supply chain issues, severe weather delivery disruptions and a recent recall of a similar prescription-only formula, the demand for Nutramigen has skyrocketed.

Adding to the challenge for families who receive WIC benefits is that they are only allowed to use the benefits on certain size cans of the formula. Barbarita thinks exceptions should be made in this type of crisis.

“They should give you like ounces, you get so many ounces per month and however you purchase the ounces is your own, however, you can find it really, especially in this times,” she said.

In a statement, the Monroe County Health Department said, “This is a nationwide shortage. In Monroe County, it affects approximately 130 WIC participants who have a prescription for 12.6 oz. Nutramigen powdered formula. In recent days, the Monroe County Department of Public Health has received calls from numerous families who cannot find the prescribed containers. We have successfully helped callers locate the powdered formula at area WIC vendors. Or, when powdered formula has not been available, we have worked with WIC participants and their physicians to obtain a new prescription for the Nutramigen concentrate or ready-to-feed alternatives approved by New York State. The good news is, our WIC vendor management agency has indicated the shortage should begin easing as early as this week, as supply chain issues are resolved and the recalled formula returns to the shelves.”

A spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Health tells News10NBC, “The New York State WIC Program continues to monitor supply chain disruptions that may be impacting participants. The NYS WIC Program contracts with four WIC Vendor Management Agencies (VMAs) who work directly with WIC authorized vendors, local agencies, and WIC participants to identify any issues and report out weekly to NYS WIC. NYS WIC is aware of some recent formula supply issues and has maintained routine communication with formula manufacturers to monitor the production of can sizes, supply, and shipments. WIC participants should contact their local agency or VMA for assistance locating products when needed.”