CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. — When Chesterfield mom Jessica Turner decided to switch to formula for her six-month-old daughter, she did not imagine a situation where she would not have food to feed her baby.
"We had gotten our formula online, so we weren't really affected too much by it," Turner said about the early days of the nationwide infant formula shortage. "Then our subscription started getting canceled online. So we couldn't get formula online anymore. And then we started running into the chaos that many other parents are going through as well -- where you walk into a grocery store and the shelves are completely empty."
Turner added it has been "super difficult" to find the formula they had been feeding their daughter, Similac Pro Advance, and probably have not been able to get it for two months.
"So, we're scrambling, finding random tubs of formula to feed her and it's causing all sorts of stomach problems. She's spitting up more often," said Turner. "Changing formula on a baby is difficult."
Turner said along with searching stores themselves, they are asking friends and family to help out when needed. She said they have been able to get by with what they are doing, but added she knows not everyone is as lucky.
"Our support is very, very strong. But there are a lot of moms out there who don't have the support that we're able to have," said Turner. "For a lot of families, they're reaching out to strangers on Facebook saying, 'Hey, my baby's on their last tub. I can't find it anywhere. This is my fifth grocery store and the shelves are empty. Does anybody have this formula?'"
For families in that type of situation, Little Hands of Virginia is attempting to help. The Richmond nonprofit, along with partner agencies, helps low-income families around Central Virginia gain access to the supplies needed for children from birth to age three.
The nonprofit said it was collecting several types of formula and asking anyone in grocery stores to grab the following formulas (but only one or two at the most):
- Similac (Pro-Advance is good, too),
- Similac Sensitive (Pro-Advance is good, too),
- Similac Alimentum
- Similac NeoSure
- Enfamil NeuroPro Sensitive
- Enfamil Gentlease
"It's gut wrenching a lot of times to hear some of the stories and what some of the parents are going through. A couple of weeks ago on a Friday and the case manager called me at 2:30 and said, 'Can you help us get this formula?' I said, 'Sure, I'll look around, see what we can do, see what we can find.' And I ended up finding some online and said, 'We'll ship it to the mom,' and she goes, 'No, she needs it for her four o'clock feeding,.'" Little Hands Virginia Director of Operations Ashley Raggi said. "Some of these needs are so urgent, these families are in crisis."
Raggi said typically they have two large boxes filled with formula at their office and even more stacked up on the wall next to it, but when CBS 6 was there for the interview they only had three bottles or cans. Anything they get, they are shipping out the door to their partners -- including 15 cans Monday morning.
"We don't unfortunately have any magical supply of the formula that they're looking for. But what we do have is a great network of followers on our social media, who are generous and willing to help," Raggi said. "If you happen to be out in the grocery store or at one of the big box stores, Target or Walmart, and you see one of the formulas that we're looking for on our list, we will be so grateful if you could just grab just one can -- because we definitely don't want to cause any more problems -- and then we will get it directly to people who can use it."
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