“Something must give” – ​​Morning call

Every morning Maria Bermudez makes a lot of phone calls. From the driver’s seat of her car she calls supermarkets, pharmacies, grocery and large stores, asking the same question every time.

“Who has [it], then I say, “Okay, I’m going,” Bermudez said. “I check in the morning when I’m in the car because when they say they have it, I go right there before they clean the store. Before they empty the shelves, I’m already there … I need to feed my two children. “

Bermudez of Allentown is currently raising two infant-dependent babies, a 5-month-old and a 9-month-old. The shortage, she said, left the shelves bare and created constant stress, anxiety and fear.

“It’s been getting worse for a couple of months,” she said. “I want to say that over the last five months or so, but more recently it has gotten even worse. Now, wherever you go to the supermarket, you see clean shelves – there is no formula.

The shortage of seats during the pandemic made it difficult to find baby formulas, but the recall earlier this year exacerbated the situation, leaving shelves bare. Parents and caregivers across the Lihai Valley said they were doing their best thanks to mass crowdsourcing, local organizations, friends and family members, but some also said they were angry, criticizing state and federal officials.

“It’s sad and painful, but something has to be,” Bermudez said. “Something needs to be given. I don’t know how to fix it. I honestly don’t know, especially kids who have stomach issues who need a special mixture.

“I don’t know how to fix it because there’s no formula.”

Similar to massive efforts when vaccines against COVID-19 became available, but appointments were fewparents and caregivers have set up groups on Facebook to share information about the availability of mixes in stores.

Christina Fenelli, the mother of 4-month-old David, said she created it Formula Finder Lehigh Valley PA / NJ A group on Facebook two weeks ago after talking to other moms with the question, “What do people do?” and “Is there anything you can do?”

Fenelli of the Valley Center said the group is working to build ties across the region. There are 49 people in the group.

“One very good thing I’ve seen in these Facebook groups is, for the most part, I’d say that 95% of people, when they find a formula, or they have a formula, they either give it away for free, or they turn around and connect with someone and say, “I’ll just sell it to you for what I paid for,” she said. “So this part is at least encouraging, as if there are still good people there.”

About two months ago Feneli had to change the mix for her son due to acid reflux, she said. He was born five weeks earlier and was in the neonatal intensive care unit.

“I immediately realized that I would not be able to breastfeed him solely because he was connected to these breathing apparatus, and they waited for his lungs to develop,” she explained. “So the priority was just to feed him no matter what.”

Gillian Nazarenko, mother of 6-month-old twin girls Hadley and Eagles, recently founded Valleys Valley Formula Finders The Facebook group, which has less than a week since its launch, has 80 members. The goal, she said, is to create a space where residents could place what they need, or share their supplies.

“I received the formula from strangers in other parts of the country. I received several offers for mothers who are ready to express breast milk for us, ”Nazarenko said. “This is one of the times when most people give up their personal interests to help their neighbors who are in crisis.”

For foster parents such as Bermudez, the situation is a little different and can be more dire. Through the state foster family system, parents are eligible to participate in a special supplementary nutrition program for women, infants, and children that helps offset the cost of formula and baby food.

However, some stores do not accept WIC, Bermudez said, and she has to pay out of pocket. Last week, four banks cost her $ 91.

“I was able, thank God, to pay $ 91 to get those four cans of formula I need,” she said. “There are people who can’t afford $ 20 to buy one bank, let alone four. So I can only imagine what these parents are going through. They can’t feed their children because there is no mixture. “

Jena Holzhafer, founder and CEO The project “Kindness”.said they had to impose a limit on one bank for families to keep their stocks.

The nonprofit organization Emmaus is the only foster office in the region that serves 20 counties, providing clothing, footwear, personal care items and other essentials, all free of charge to ease the costs of foster parents.

“Fortunately, we had a decent supply of various special formulas thanks to our community. However, in the last month we have not seen the same flow of donations of mixtures that came to our store, ”she said, adding that they want families in need to have access. “Many of these babies have special needs for feeding because many of them are born drug addicts with sensitive digestive problems. It is scary to imagine that we may end up and not be able to support these children who have already been injured, even in utero. ”

Even with the help of organizations and crowdsourcing, many parents burn gas, even as fuel prices continue to risegoing around to look for shops.

Kimberly Levitt, head of health programs at the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Center and mother of 6-month-old Eli, said last weekend that she had traveled to several counties in search of a mix.

“It seems like it’s just time,” Levitt said. “And employees in stores don’t even know when they’ll get more, which is also very scary and hard to predict. Because it seems like it’s going to get a little worse before it gets better. “

Family members, friends, even strangers came to the rescue, she said.

“It was humiliating to talk to moms I’ve never even met before who say,‘ I’ll go to the grocery store and make sure I’m looking for you, and if I do, I’ll be happy to send it to you, ’” she said. “And it’s like I did the same thing for people. I put mothers there. So it’s scary, but it’s nice when families come together to make sure their kids aren’t hungry or dehydrated.”

Representatives of the Food and Drug Administration told lawmakers on Thursday that the closed Abbott Nutrition facility in Sturgis, Michigan, could be operational as early as next week, pending security and certification updates. according to the Associated Press. The formula plant, the largest in the U.S., has been closed since mid-February due to pollution problems that have led to reports of illness and at least two deaths.

But even if the factory reopens, the trust of parents and caregivers will be hard to regain.

“It doesn’t even solve the problem,” Feneli said. “I’ve never used their products, but now, of course, I wouldn’t. I don’t see this at all as part of a productive solution. I am also very hesitant about importing from Europe.

“Just too many handlers – too many things that can go wrong.”

Nazarenko also stated that she did not trust the restoration of the plant.

“It seems that the government’s reaction to this at the moment is not as urgent as it should be. And I feel that it will continue like this, ”she said. “I have some lack of confidence in the plant, which is reopening. Because if they were able to open it again, why hadn’t they just done it sooner? Are there any more contaminants? Will the formula be done hastily if thorough security checks are conducted? It’s a concern. “

However, Bermuda is not as worried about the plant as others.

“I guess they got rid of everything that was there that was contaminated,” she said. “I guess they go there clean. I guess they’ll start over.

“Right now I just want the formula to be on the shelf.”

The correspondent of “Morning Bell” correspondent Molly Bilinski can be contacted at

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