June 23, 2022

Spokane families are feeling the effects of the national infant formula shortage

Caretakers and parents see empty baby formula shelves when they walk into local grocery stores.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The national formula shortage is hitting Spokane.

A major contributor to the shortage is the temporary closure of Abbott’s Michigan plant, the formula maker’s largest national plant.

KREM 2 went to four grocery stores looking for formula on Monday and found nearly empty shelves and a significant shortage of liquid formula.

The Safeway off Hamilton Ave and Mission Ave is currently limiting customers to purchasing only two formula items.

Chaunley Terry recently moved to Spokane from California. He said he could see the effects of the shortage there and knew things would continue to get worse.

“And I was right,” said Terry. “It just started to get harder and harder to find, you had to go to different stores, go online and hope these things would show up. And then you might end up having to try another one or something quite close.

Terry said it took months to figure out what formula his 10-month-old baby could digest without becoming fussy. Now Terry considers less what his baby likes and more what is available.

“At the end of the day, you have to feed your child,” Terry said. And I would much rather have it tough and alive than starve to death.

Terry has two large tubs of generic formula in place of his son’s favorite Simulac Total Comfort. He said one of the big containers could get him through a week.

For some caregivers, formula swapping can result in more than just a fussy baby.

Alexandria Black said her granddaughter had digestive issues and could only hold back a certain type of liquid formula. She said it made an already difficult situation even more difficult.

Black said she reached out to friends and family throughout the Interior Northwest looking for the right kind of formula.

“I even reached out to people in Yakima,” Black said. “I even reached out to a guy in Portland. No one has what she needs. My sister is in Las Vegas right now looking for a formula to get her home. She says there’s has a huge shortage there too.They don’t have it in any store.

Terry said he also reached out to his family in Florida to help him find formula.

“When I can’t get it here, I check other postcodes to see if there are any nearby,” Terry said. “I usually just ask my family in Florida, ‘hey, if you see it, buy it and I’ll send you some money’.”

Black’s granddaughter is able to get formula from Washington State’s WIC nutrition program. In terms of formula travel, this poses a problem when Black travels to Idaho in search of his granddaughter’s nutrients. She might be able to find the kind her granddaughter needs, but then she’ll have to pay out of pocket.

“We pay close to $200 a month out of pocket for his formula,” Black said. “Six cans of his formula are $80.”

Black said her granddaughter uses three boxes of Simulac soy formula every day.

In an effort to stretch what she has, she says she mixes it with cereal or bananas until she can find more.

Terry said being a parent right now is hard. When he sees the formula his son needs in the stores, he wants to buy a lot of it because he knows he will need it. But he also knows that other families are in the same boat and drive to store after store to find what their children need to grow and be healthy.

“That’s where you’re conflicted,” Terry said. “It feels like I have to make sure my child is fed, but I also don’t want to deprive people who are going through the same thing. Right now we don’t see the end of this shortage.”

Spokane parents and guardians have a Facebook group where people can find and redeem formulas they want or no longer need.

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