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Dickson City mom shares her experience with the baby formula shortage with U.S. Sen. Bob Casey

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey discusses formula shortage May 27 in Scranton
Kat Bolus / WVIA News
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U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, left, discusses the formula shortage with Barbara Kennedy, MS, RD, LDN, Nutritionist, Maternal and Family Health Services, center; and Victoria Bigelow, WIC client and parent, holding her daughter Davina Smith, right.

Victoria Bigelow's infant daughter, Davina, needs a specific baby formula.

She was born in September and for eight months Bigelow has been navigating a new baby and a formula shortage. Then, a recall on the Similac formula Davina eats.

She says it’s been scary. She’s panicking all the time.

“If you don’t have a baby you don’t think it’s real,” Bigelow said.

She shared her story Friday in Scranton with U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. They were also joined by representatives from Maternal and Family Health Services (MFHS) outside of the organization’s future home on South Washington Avenue in Scranton. Casey listened as they spoke about how the formula shortage has impacted the WIC program and how a bill signed into law on May 21 has helped relieve some of the stress of finding formulas.

Dr. Maria Montoro Edwards is the President and CEO of MFHS. She said her staff knows first hand the impact of the WIC Formula Shortage. The organization serves 17 counties in Northeast Pennsylvania, said Edwards. In those counties, there are around 8,000 formula-fed infants on the WIC program.

Moms like Bigelow enrolled in WIC – which stands for Women, Infants and Children – usually receive powder formula at little or no cost. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education for low-income pregnant and postpartum women, and infants and children up to age five who are at a nutritional risk.

Formula has been hard to find since a suspected contamination led to a recall and the shuttering of the Abbott Nutrition plant in Michigan. The plant supplies a large portion of the country with formula, including Pennsylvania parents enrolled in WIC.

Because of the May bill, MFHS was able to switch Davina from the recalled powder formula to liquid formula. But then, there’s still the shortage.

Bigelow lives in Dickson City. She’s driven to Honesdale and Wilkes-Barre to find the formula. Her fiance has left work early to pick it up, she told Casey. Thankfully, she has a friend who works in a grocery store who now notifies her when the Similac Alimentum Hypoallergenic Formula is in stock. But Bigelow knows other families aren’t as lucky.

"Thanks for sharing that with us. I think it gives people a better understanding of the reality of this,” Casey said to Bigelow.

Casey also discussed another bill he introduced in the Senate to give the federal Food and Drug Administration more authority.

“We want to provide the FDA with all the authority, all the tools they need to do the oversight of these manufacturers to get ahead of a supply chain or production problem or contamination problem and to provide better notice," he said. "So families know what's happening long before you reach a crisis stage."