Local Stores Struggle to Stock Infant Formula

MARQUETTE – Since February, an infant formula shortage has left parents across the country struggling to come by their baby’s food. Federal administrations have done some to ease the pressure; an increase in WIC funding by the USDA, loosening tariffs on international imports, and Operation Fly Formula; a program that has brought 37 emergency shipments of baby formula from foreign nations. However, for those in the lesser populated regions of the nation, finding what they need has remained difficult. 

In the Upper Peninsula, local grocery stores have been doing their best to stay stocked. Bradley Bertocchi has been the manager of Larry’s Family Foods in Gwinn for the better portion of 20 years. Now, he faces a struggle to keep the shelves stocked with whatever he can. As he said, “On the shelves, there’s only a few products that we can get, and for the most part you’re lucky if you can even get those. More often than not it’s nothing.” 

For mother Amanda Malloy, the shortage has been even closer to home. Her infant son required a hypoallergenic blend of formula for the majority of the shortage, which quickly became even harder to come by. “The hypoallergenic he was on seemed to be stocked for the most part until April, and then we were going almost daily trying to find it.” Amanda, like many other parents, had to find different ways of acquiring the formula. Amazon quickly became the go-to as the store shelves grew even emptier, as supply  “gradually kinda dissipated a little bit, you could see it, and then you’d go and there’d be nothing on the shelf.”

Amanda, a WIC recipient, says she felt lucky that the program did so much to help her find what she needed. “They were very helpful, if I needed different brands they switched brands, if I needed different sizes they switched sizes. They were very flexible making sure my infant got what he needed.” WIC, among other programs, have been receiving funding from the USDA as well as the Abbott company, a formula manufacturer that is contracted to provide formula for Michigan WIC. Abbot, however, has been unable to meet those requirements, following a voluntary recall of supply and flooding due to storms at their plant in Sturgis, Michigan. Abbot has joined the USDA in funding WIC to provide an alternate formula.

Luckily, Amanda feels “things are starting to bounce back”. Measures to ease the crisis for families nationwide have stretched to the Upper Peninsula, and some stores, such as Super One Foods in Marquette, are beginning to see a more frequent resupply. However, families are not out of the woods yet, supply chain issues and manufacturing setbacks are still ever-present even as strides are being made to resupply and diversify the industry. Until shelves are fully restocked, parents may still struggle to find what they need. For Bradley Bertocchi, he won’t impose a limit on his store’s supply; “If it’s on the shelf and you need it, you’re welcome to it.” 

For parents who are struggling to find the baby formula you need, call your local health department or WIC to find assistance.