OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) – The federal government and other entities have taken several steps recently to address the nationwide shortage of baby formula.
One of those steps happened on May 18 when President Joe Biden invoked the Defense Production Act. The move requires suppliers of formula manufacturers to prioritize orders from these manufacturers over others. The Department of Defense is also able to use commercial aircraft to fly formula to the United States from overseas.
The Food and Drug Administration also is streamlining its review process so that foreign manufacturers can send baby formula to the United States more quickly.
Abbott, a major manufacturer of baby formula, announced on its website on June 4 that it’s restarting production at its Sturgis, Michigan plant. In the announcement, it said it hoped to release product to consumers “beginning on or about June 20.”
The plant shut down in February after the FDA discovered possible contamination there.
Three months ago, Oshkosh resident Summer Ross welcomed her son Kylo into the world. She said finding the formula for him hasn’t been easy. She said he goes through a can of formula every three to five days.
“It’s hard because you don’t want to stock up too much because other moms need that formula and it’s just a hard thing,” said Ross.
When she shops, she explained she sees a lot of empty shelves and it’s difficult to find the brand of formula her baby needs. She said she usually has to go to multiple stores before she’s able to find the baby formula she is looking for which is especially frustrating when gas prices are so high.
She added she’s able to get formula free through Winnebago County’s Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program.
She also said that she hasn’t seen things get any better and that, in her opinion, finding baby formula now is even more difficult than it was a few months ago.
She explained her friends check formula sections at stores when they go shopping to help her find what stores have them in stock. She has also joined a Facebook group to ask people where they’ve seen formulas in stock.
Over at the Oshkosh Area Community Pantry, officials were able to go to Milwaukee in March to secure a large donation of Nestle baby formula.
The pantry was able to get 200 cases of formula which equates to about $40,000 worth. It has already gone through about 75 percent of that supply and it thinks that there’s enough formula to last about another month.
Pantry officials said people are usually extremely grateful when they find out that Oshkosh Area Community Pantry has baby formula and that it’s free to take.
The pantry said it is trying to limit baby formula to two cans per family.
“The number one thing I’ve heard is that I’ve looked everywhere and that is really hard to hear that sometimes we’re the only place that had it,” said Karl Buelow who is the operations manager at the Oshkosh Area Community Pantry.
Buelow went on to say the baby formula is available to anybody who needs it – you don’t need to be a regular visitor to the pantry.
He said he talks to lots of people who come through the pantry about what it’s like to get formula right now.
Are things improving?
“The biggest thing is that there is light at the end of the tunnel the plants are starting to come back, there are shipments,” said Buelow. “But we haven’t seen it hit the shelves yet and that’s what we’re waiting for but hearing that there is hope is a huge thing.”
Light at the end of the tunnel.
A welcomed sight for mothers like Ross doing everything they can to get their babies what they need.
“I’m just kind of trying to trudge along until he can take solids and we can feel a little bit more at ease with that,” said Ross.
Local 5 News also spoke to the Salvation Army of the Fox Cities and officials there say that they are also still feeling the shortage and that donations of baby formula get taken as quickly as they come in.