“Hey Guys, I have these three cans… would love to trade for Enfamil Neuropro or I’ll just give away.”
“Just realized I have four cans of the in-high-demand Enfamil gentle ease powder.”
“Long shot, I know, but in search of Gentle Ease in the Crestview Area. Only have half a can left.”
Parents all over the Emerald Coast, including Niceville and Valparaiso, have posted desperately searching for infant formula to feed their babies. These were messages Burgundy Lunsford kept scrolling and seeing in Facebook groups everywhere as the nationwide shortage of baby formula began to tighten supply and fray nerves in northwest Florida.
According to the New York Times, the formula shortage began when formula at an Abbott Pharmaceuticals production plant voluntarily recalled some brands of baby formula it makes in its Sturgis, Michigan Plant. According to the NYT article, four babies became sick with bacterial infections after ingesting the formula. The company said in a statement it did not believe the procedure caused the illnesses, but acknowledged in their statements to the press that the the Federal Food and Drug Administration found issues to correct in the facility in Michigan. According to the article, Abbot Pharmaceuticals makes 48% of the nation’s formula.
Lunsford thought back to just a couple of months ago when her sister had COVID-19, and she needed to find formula to feed her infant nephew.
“I had to go to four different stores to find his formula,” she remembers, “You know, by the third one like I felt pretty helpless. I feel like this is all my nephew needs and I can’t provide it like I felt miserable.”
When this crisis came around to the Panhandle, Lunsford acted quickly to help alleviate the shortage – and the related panic – many moms experienced.
She started a facebook group called Feeding Babies Across the Emerald Coast. The group is a clearinghouse, where people post pictures of formula that is available on local store shelves, and a tool desperate parents who need formula can use to help them find it.
Since she started the group – parents from across the greater panhandle, from Mobile to Tallahassee have joined the group in search of food for their children.
“The most basic need is to feed your child,” Lunsford said, “And so when you can’t feed your child, what you need to be able to feed them that creates a panic, and I’m sure many moms have felt that stress of going store to store and not being able to find what they need. So I’m sure it’s very much affected their, you know, mental health, being able to stress about that and making sure that their baby has the exact nutrition that they need. And probably affected many other is their baby isn’t adjusting to the formula as well. Probably a lot of other daily lifestyle changes are affected from that.”
Lunsford also worries the shortage – and the need for parents to provide for their children may make people desperate from panic. Besides the right formula – she is making sure the group provides the right information.
“There’s so many people affected by this, and there’s not a lot that I can do, other than rally us up together,” Lunsford said, “And so that was my idea was to get everybody on the same team. Because, you know, this is scary. Instead of having people panic by this as an option for people to actually know what it is, it’s, I’ve seen a lot of people share misinformation on formula feeding, or goat’s milk or making your own. And so I want to make sure that people have safe feeding options for their babies. Because desperate times, sometimes people go to desperate measures, and I want them to have as much accessible information to them that might help them not have to resort to those measures.”