As Long Island feels the impacts of a nationwide baby formula shortage, local food pantries are ramping up calls for donations, while officials are making various calls to action to combat the crisis.
Grocery store shelves once stocked with baby formula are now bare, forcing Long Islanders with infants to turn to nonprofits giving away the scarce but essential item. Organizations such as Baby Essentials in Bethpage, Angels of Long Island in East Patchogue, and Branches Long Island in Middle Island are all ramping up efforts to help get parents the formula they need.
“We go through it like crazy on a typical, normal, no-shortage-basis,” said Samantha Morales, founder of Branches Long Island. “The only thing we have to now limit is the amount [people take].”
Due to the shortage, Branches is limiting baby formula to one unit per family every two weeks, Morales said during a Facebook Live video.
This week, Angels of Long Island held a donation drive outside its East Patchogue thrift shop so they could give it to moms in need who were desperately calling asking if they had any available.
Meanwhile, government officials are combating price gouging during the shortage. New York State Attorney General Letitia James urged anyone who comes across price gouging of infant formula to report it by submitting an online complaint form or calling 800-771-7755.
“The national baby formula shortage is terrifying for parents concerned about how to feed their children,” James said. “The last thing any family needs is to be price gouged on critical nutrition for their little ones, which is why I am putting profiteers seeking to take advantage of this crisis on notice. If New Yorkers see exorbitant price increases for baby formula, I encourage them to report it to my office immediately.”
Local Republican politicians, including Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Town of Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin, are calling on the federal government to take action by invoking the Defense Production Act to increase supply.
In addition, Gov. Kathy Hochul and state officials have come forward with tips for families struggling to find formula.
“Reports of infant formula supply shortages are concerning, and we urge New York families to follow the Department’s recommendations as we continue to monitor the situation in New York,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “The Department remains committed to ensuring families have the nutritional support and resources needed to best care for our youngest New Yorkers.”
For families struggling to locate formula they need for their children, the DOH recommends the following:
Call your OBGYN or the infant’s medical provider to see if they have in office samples or can suggest a similar formula that may be more readily available in stores that is nutritionally similar to meet the infant’s needs, switch to another brand or type that’s available, if recommended by the infant’s medical provider, contact a local New York State Women, Infants and Children Office or prescreen with Wanda, the Department’s chatbot, to see if the infant is eligible for WIC benefits, families with WIC should check the New York State Women, Infants and Children vendor site to find a list of WIC approved vendors who may have formula in stock, visit smaller stores and drugstores that carry formula.
You may want to call first to see if they have formula in stock, look online for options available but be sure to only order from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies, don’t buy formula online from people you don’t know on social media sites, online auctions, or overseas, check the lot code on the formula that you already have to make sure it wasn’t recalled.
Don’t throw away formula that wasn’t part of the recall, unless it is expired, be sure to follow the formula manufacturer’s preparation and storage instructions, don’t use toddler formula to feed infants, don’t water down formula or try to make infant formula at home and expectant individuals are encouraged to consult with a provider about breastfeeding their infant.
The New York State WIC program also provides breastfeeding support and resources to new families. Families feeding a baby with human milk from a source other than the baby’s mother should only use milk from a source that has screened its milk donors and taken other precautions to ensure the safety of its milk.
The Department of Health will continue to monitor the situation and communicate openly with New York families. For more information, support, and WIC eligibility, visit New York State Women, Infants and Children Office or prescreen with Wanda.
Caregivers can also read the latest from the FDA here.
-With Isabel Song Beer, amNY