Houston leaders help parents deal with baby formula shortage

For Third Ward residents and new parents Ovie and Mikayla Cade, finding formula for their baby, Kennedy, has been difficult.

The Cades and many other parents across the country have been haunted by empty shelves as voluntary recalls and supply chain issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic have taken their toll on the supply chain of infant formula.

To help, U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee and volunteers from the National Association for Disaster Services of Christian Churches distributed formula and sanitary supplies Saturday afternoon at Yates High School.

“It’s better than nothing,” Ovie said. “I feel happy and grateful right now and I used to go to this school, so that’s one of the good things about it.”

As of May 8, the nationwide stock-out rate for infant formula has climbed to 43%, according to Data assembly — a retail data analysis company. Comparatively, in the first seven months of 2021, the stock-out rate was between 2 and 8%.

In February, Abbott Laboratories – which makes Similac, Alimentum and EleCare infant formula – issued a voluntary recall for products made at their plant in Sturgis, Michigan, after four consumers filed complaints that Salmonella was detected in infants who have consumed focmula, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.

The incident exacerbated an already existing shortage and high demand, experts said.

Demand for formula, Jackson Lee said, was so intense this week in Washington D.C. that it led her to organize Saturday’s event with the NACC to distribute a trailer full of formula, which her office said , would help more than 300 local families.

“We did this because babies grow and develop at a very fast rate and I can’t suffer for a moment – or their parents – when they aren’t fed,” Jackson-Lee said. “The idea of ​​rushing to donate formula to carry them around for a few days is to… bridge to find a store or find a supply in the next two days.”

Dr. Nataly Carol Daly, a local obstetrician who has practiced in Houston for 40 years, emphasized the importance of the availability of infant formula and called the shortage how unprecedented the shortage was.

“For those who choose not to breastfeed — and there are women who can’t breastfeed — surely we need to have formula when it comes to babies,” Daly said. “It’s a shocking thing to happen, I’ve never heard of it in my life and I’ve been here for a while.”

It is crucial for mothers who can breastfeed, said Dr Janice Powells, adding that as a pediatrician she receives daily requests from mothers for formula.

The formula provides essential nutrients in the first year of life, Powells added, cautioning parents against trying to create a homemade formula.

“The first 12 months are so important to how they will develop and do in school, later in life and into adulthood,” she said. “If parents who are struggling and can’t get the formula or find it decide to mix their own concoction…there could be a problem with the minerals being out of balance and the chemistry not being right.”

Jackson Lee said she plans to contact national disaster management organizations to marshal the resources needed for the shortage and get the formula into the hands of parents.

“Entities that are dealing with a disaster may have other products in other places in Texas and they can share them statewide and they can share them with us,” she said. “Hopefully we get a break from the supply chain crisis and things get moving.”

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