RICHMOND, Va. — Amelia Easley Byrd's 10-month-old son needs a special kind of baby formula, one that she struggles to find on store shelves.
“Fingers crossed, please, please, please, please, and nothing," Byrd said. "Whenever I tell someone what I’m looking for they’re like, ‘What’s that? We’ve never heard of that.' Everyone’s like 'Similac, Gentle Ease, Infamil,' and I say, ‘Neocate’ — and they’re like, ‘What?’”
Darian Prince's daughter also needs a special kind of formula, turning to his family for help.
“This has impacted family all over the East Coast, it’s really insane," Prince said.
Both Byrd and Prince spent their Sunday afternoon waiting in line at Park365 in Richmond, hoping to find what they needed at a donation drive, hosted by Villa, a group working to connect parents with the formula and supplies they need.
Villa's founder, Kristen Guisani, said since the nationwide formula shortage began, she's heard from hundreds of families across Virginia desperate for help.
"Moms tell me, 'You have a formula we need, but we can’t even get there because we don’t have a car or we can’t afford the gas. The last few dollars I need to get the formula and I can’t even get the car,'” Guisani said.
Villa has hosted three drive events throughout the Commonwealth to make sure families do not have to drive. Guisani said she's seen firsthand how the shortage continues to disproportionately impact lower income families.
“These moms are panicking. It’s not just that the formula is not there, it’s that they don’t have a way to get it because they rely on WIC and the WIC-approved formulas are in such a shortage right now," she said.
Cases of formula went as quickly as they came, with some parents left empty-handed once again. However, parents like Byrd and Prince say the community giving back gives them hope.
“Don’t be afraid to ask. That is OK," Byrd said.
Villais continuing to look for donations and volunteers, since they do not see the need stopping any time soon. The group is planning on holding multiple drives across the Commonwealth in the near future.