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ODH addresses baby formula shortage for WIC participants

Published: May. 18, 2022 at 5:26 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVG) - Bruce Vanderhoff, Director of the Ohio Department of Health Department, requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S Department of Health and Human Services increase assistance to families to better address the national formula shortage on Wednesday.

“We recognize that many Ohio families are finding themselves struggling to find appropriate food for their infants, and we are advocating for them,” said Dr. Vanderhoff. " We have been in ongoing and direct communication with formula manufacturers, and USDA and HHS leadership, urging them to do all they can to promptly reduce barriers to formula access.”

The shortage stems from a February recall by Abott Nutrition which magnified ongoing supply chain disruptions among formula makers, ultimately resulting fewer options on store shelves nationwide,

Amid the shortage, Ohio’s Women, Infant, and Children’s program (WIC) has applied for USDA waivers with the hopes of potentially extending even more flexibility to families purchasing infant formula using WIC benefits.

The program currently has waivers in place to add additional formula choice and size options for impacted specialty formulas to provide more options for families.

Locally, WIC staff members are working closely with impacted families to assist in locating appropriate formulas. In addition, staff members are also contacting physicians and retail outlets to problem solve and identify additional options. WIC staffers have met requested that retailers and vendors rapidly restock shelves as additional formula arrives.

According to the ODH’s news release, may WIC participants have medically complex needs and are on prescription formulas. WIC works with dietitians and healthcare providers to find the best solution for infants.

Families can locate participating stores and pharmacies by visiting the wicstorelocator.com

For families who are currently impacted by the infant formula shortage, the department recommends the following:

  • Never dilute your formula. Diluting infant formula with water or other liquids can be dangerous and even life-threatening for babies.
  • Do not try to make homemade formula. Homemade formulas often have inadequate amounts of critical nutrients. Other consequences can include severe nutritional imbalances to foodborne illnesses, both of which can be life-threatening.
  • Consult with your infant/child’s healthcare provider for specific nutrition recommendations as they will know best what is right for your child.
  • Call the store to ask about product availability.
  • If you do not see the formula you need on the self, consider kindly asking a store associate for assistance.
  • If you rely on WIC benefits for your formula and are unable to locate it at a WIC vendor, consider going to a non-WIC store to purchase formula with your SNAP or TANF benefits.
  • Consider talking to the pharmacy to ask for help if your child is on specialized formula.
  • If your child is on specialty or medical formula, call their healthcare provider to ask about adjusting their prescription to an appropriate alternative formula.
  • If you need help increasing milk supply, reach out to WIC for help or call the 24/7 Breastfeeding Hotline at 888-588-3423 or BFHOTLINE to 839863.
  • If funds are available and a medical need is present, pasteurized donor milk may be available, at cost through the Ohio Health Mother’s Milk Bank (614) 566-0630
  • Those participating in WIC may contact the state office at 1-800-755-4769 or their local WIC office for assistance.

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