Summit County families travel outside the community to find baby formula as national shortage continues
Some mothers are offering to stock up on formula for local families when they visit the Front Range
When Abbott Nutrition closed its Sturgis, Michigan infant formula production facility in February, almost overnight, infant formula became hard to get. Three months later, the shortage continues as families across the nation struggle to find enough formula to feed their children.
The manufacturer voluntarily decided to close its facility after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers not to use certain powdered infant formula products from the company’s Sturgis plant, according to a release from the FDA.
One month later, Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet joined over 30 of his colleagues in sending a letter to the president of the Infant Nutrition Council of America calling on infant formula manufacturers to make every effort possible to get parents and families the formula they need to feed their kids, says a release from Bennet’s office.
More recently, the FDA and Abbott Nutrition came to an agreement that the company would take various corrective actions “that are expected to ultimately result in an increase of infant formula” and “ensure safe powdered infant formula is produced at the facility.”
According to a statement from the company from May 13, it has been relying on its FDA-registered facility in Cootehill, Ireland to ship out millions of cans of infant formula powder to the U.S., and it has also prioritized production at its Columbus, Ohio, facility. The same statement said that, subject to FDA approval, it could restart its Sturgis, Michigan site within two weeks.
But as the company works to get its facility up and running again, families are worrying about having enough supply on hand to feed their children. And in the case of Summit County families, some parents are even traveling as far as Glenwood Springs or the Front Range to stock up on supplies.
Blue River resident Mandy Webster supplements her 7-month-old son’s diet with a specialized infant formula called PurAmino. Webster said the formula was already hard to find before the shortage and that she normally ordered it off of Walmart’s website.
About three months ago, Webster said her mother shared her predictions about there being an infant formula shortage.
Eventually, the search for the formula became more difficult. Webster said she started enlisting the help of friends and family in other states to be on the lookout at their local stores when she could no longer find a site that would ship it to her in Summit County.
She also began punching in various Colorado zipcodes on Walmart’s website in the hopes that she’d find a few canisters at other locations around the state. In some cases, the search for formula has even dictated the family’s vacation, particularly on a recent trip to Moab, Utah.
“We stopped in every possible location between here and Moab, Utah on our camping trip there this last weekend, and were able to find some down in Glenwood Springs, which was a huge help,” Webster said. “We got an additional two canisters and should help get him through another couple of weeks.”
Breckenridge resident Andrea Finnerty agrees that finding formula in Summit County seems to require a scavenger hunt that, more often than not, doesn’t prove successful. Finnerty said her children no longer use formula, so her family isn’t impacted by the shortage. Nevertheless, she does have a Sam’s Club membership and has offered to pick up formula for various local and out-of-state families during her trips to Denver.
In total, she’s spent around $420 on formula in the last month. Finnerty said some families have reimbursed her for the supply and for travel time, but for some, she’s donated it to them since they might be in an especially tough spot.
In most local stores, customers are limited in how much formula they can buy. As supply dwindles and stores struggle to stock shelves, families worry about whether or not their stock will last and where they will go to find more supply for their children.
“For me, it reminds me of trying to find toilet paper and paper towels — when COVID first hit — at Target,” Finnerty said. “It’s like a wipe-out, apocalyptic-style bare shelves.”
Webster said she isn’t planning to rely on the uptick of production and is instead focusing her sights four months down the road when her son won’t be as dependent on formula anymore.
“I don’t foresee the actual formula shortage coming to an end any time soon,” Webster said.
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