MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Like parents across the country, the Baby Pantry in Muskegon is struggling to get enough formula for the low-income families it serves.
“(We’ve) never been this low (on formula),” coordinator Molly Thomas said. “We’ve always had a plethora of all different kinds of formula.”
Catholic Charities West Michigan runs the Baby and Toddler Pantries in Muskegon, where parents can get diapers, clothes and other things they need. But with as much as 43% of the country’s baby formula supplies out of stock — the result of supply chain problems and a massive recall from Sturgis, Michigan-based Abbott Nutrition — the pantry is running short, too. It had to send back 85 cans of formula because of the February recall.
Thomas said if things don’t improve, she may have to turn families away.
“We’re not going to be able to help them,” Thomas said. “…I pride myself on that whenever anyone calls and needs something, if we don’t have it, I make sure they can at least get it from somewhere else. And so that’s really hard thinking about, like, wow, if we run out of this or we don’t get any more, I’m literally not going to be able to help my clients get formula. So that’s a really scary thought and I’m hoping we don’t get to that point.”
Generally, the pantry relies on donations, but it also purchases items.
“I go to different Meijers, different locations, Walmart, everywhere just to see if I can find anything,” Thomas said.
She said anyone who is able can drop off unopened cans of baby formula or buy it online and ship it to:
Catholic Charities West Michigan
1720 Park Street
Dieticians say parents who can’t get their usual brand should consider an off-brand. But they say you should not water down formula or try to make your own. Babies younger than 1 should not have cow’s milk.
“Having a new baby in general is overwhelming, having a new baby during a pandemic is overwhelming and a formula recall and shortage, I just can’t even imagine that, so I just feel for everyone and know everyone is doing their best,” Lucy Frey, a pediatric dietician at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, said.
Checking the ingredients is also important.
“If you are super concerned about tolerating a new type of formula. one thing you could try is looking at the first three to four ingredients on your baby’s formula and comparing that to an alternative you might be choosing, because if it’s a similar fat or carbohydrate or protein source, your baby is likely to tolerate that well,” Frey said.
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said he and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer have been talking about a policy change for months that could help low-income families dealing with pressures like the formula shortage. Tripling the earned income tax credit, he said, would provide more money for families to put toward any number of necessities.
“This is something personal to me,” Gilchrist told News 8 in Holland, where he was visiting for Tulip Time. “I have a young daughter who will be 3 and I just know how parents who are already stressing out about everything, about affording stuff for their kids, about affording child care, they’re stressed out about this. So having to worry about formula being available and being safe is also very concerning. So we’re certainly watching closely what’s happening with this issue and this is why we’ve proposed putting more money in families’ pockets to be able to better deal with challenges and have access to what they need for their kids to have a good foundation to be healthy to be loved and to be cared for and we position them for success. When we triple that earned income tax credit, 730,000 families on the state of Michigan will be lifted out of poverty.”
The earned income tax increase is part of the ongoing budget negotiations in Lansing.
—News 8’s Rachel Van Gilder contributed to this report.