COVINGTON, Ga. — Many area food banks are among those working to help new mothers who are having difficulty finding baby formula in retail stores.
And one of those will be the beneficiary of a recent Georgia Department of Public Health policy change allowing it to donate to food banks any unopened, unexpired formula returned to its WIC clinics.
Covington First United Methodist Church’s Food Pantry will be the sole Newton County recipient of donated formula from the Newton County WIC clinic, said a spokesperson for Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale Counties Health Departments.
Food pantry director Megan Hulgan said the church ministry will offer the formula to those requesting it during the thrice-weekly food giveaway event.
Clinics previously were required to dispose of returned formula or WIC-eligible nutritionals. The policy conformed to a 2019 U.S. Department of Agriculture recommendation to throw away returned WIC infant formula as a safety measure against formula that may have been tampered with, damaged or exposed to extremely high temperatures.
Georgia Department of Public Health spokesperson Nancy Nydam told WSB-TV the policy change was done after consulting with USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service.
Hulgan said the pantry already had some supplies of Enfamil, Similac and Good Start but had seen it dwindle quickly in recent weeks because of demand.
She said the pantry did not normally stock much formula among its regular supply of food. However, pantry officials saw the need for it as it got harder to find in retail stores amid recent shortages.
The shortages are linked to a recall of products from one of only four formula producers in the U.S. The market concentration has been blamed for leaving few alternate suppliers. Pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions and rigid international trade barriers that impeded imports also have contributed, ABC-TV News reported.
“Before the crisis, we kept baby items inside and gave it if they requested it,” Hulgan said,
She said the pantry program is free and open to anyone. It partners with the nonprofit Helping Mamas which provides some of its stock to the Covington First UMC ministry, Hulgan said.
It recently served 64 families which had never requested food from the pantry — which operates Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 2-4 p.m. at 1113 Conyers St. in Covington, Hulgan said.
She said a recent donation of 130 cans and bottles was down to 25. After it is gone, the pantry did not anticipate having more available until June 11, she said.
For more information about the pantry and its services, call 770-786-7305 ext. 20 or visit https://www.facebook.com/Covingtonfumcfood.
Another area food bank, Willing Helpers Food Pantry in Social Circle, recently received a private donation of 36 cases of different types of Similac powdered and liquid formula.
Administrator Teresa Worley said the twice-weekly pantry at 1317 N. Cherokee Road normally does not stock formula but also saw the need.
The pantry — which is affiliated with Solid Rock Baptist Church — has a limited supply of baby formula and baby food, she said.
It is open every Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Call 678-342-3434 for more information.
Meanwhile, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently offered guidance for parents having difficulty finding baby formula:
• Watering down baby formula is dangerous and can cause nutritional imbalances that may lead to serious health problems. Always mix formula as directed by the manufacturer.
• Homemade baby formulas are not advised. While recipes may seem healthy, they are not safe and do not meet your baby’s nutritional needs.
• Buy baby formula online but only from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies.
• Be leery of ads on social media. You can check out a company’s reputation through the Better Business Bureau (BBB) at www.bbb.org.
• Do not use imported formulas from other countries that are not reviewed by the FDA.
• Only prepare the amount of formula you will use — throw out any infant formula that is left in the bottle after feeding your baby.
It is recommended that during the shortage you buy no more than a 10-day to two-week supply of formula.
For a complete list of Academy guidance and tips for finding formula during the shortage, visit healthychildren.org.
WIC clients who need help finding formula or who have questions should contact their local WIC office or 1-800-228-9173.
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr also is warning Georgia consumers to beware of price gouging and other scams in response to the nationwide baby formula shortage. Consumers can report scams and suspected price gouging to the Consumer Protection Division (CPD) by calling 404-651-8600 or 1-800-869-1123. Georgians can also file a complaint online by visiting CPD’s website.