Georgia expands infant formula access for WIC participants amid shortage
Retailer data shows the shortage continues to worsen in the U.S.
SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - When the infant formula shortage hit the U.S. – it hit low-income families in Georgia even harder.
Now the parents of children enrolled Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) have expanded formula options until the shortage ends.
WTOC spoke with child advocates across the state about how they came together to cut the red tape on a critical government program and what it means for participants.
Two weeks ago, as news began to spread about parents struggling to find formula, it prompted an emergency meeting by the WIC work group in Georgia to figure out what could be done.
“Early Head Start directors reported that there was definitely a big struggle in rural areas especially in the counties around Chatham - Bryan, Camden, even Glynn, Liberty, and specifically Enfamil, which was the Mead Johnson formula,” said Callan Wells, senior health policy manager with Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students.
It was problematic news because Mead Johnson is one of the main manufacturers of infant formula in the U.S., and the Enfamil brand formula it makes is the only option for the nearly 60,000 infants enrolled in WIC in Georgia.
The work group determined the best option was for state leaders to apply for a U.S.D.A waiver. The waiver is what allows those enrolled in WIC to purchase other brands of formula.
“So they wouldn’t need a doctor’s note or prescription to purchase a different brand,” explained Kelcie Silvio, policy analyst with Voices for Georgia’s Children.
In addition, the state health department relaxed the rules, which require WIC participants to buy formula in bulk.
“So that families can purchase formula one at a time, as they are able to find them which was another big support for families who are struggling to find formula in bulk,” Wells said.
The formula waivers took effect this week in Georgia for WIC participants, so it’s too early to tell what kind of an impact they might have, according to the Coastal Health District.
Georgia health officials have shared with Mead Johnson which counties are struggling to keep baby formula in stock, so the company can prioritize re-stock supply.
But the health district has seen an increase of formula in stock at certain retailers.
Nationwide - the infant formula shortage continues to worsen with an increase in retailers reporting they’re out of stock.
An analysis by Datasembly shows the out-of-stock percentage rose to 73.58 percent for the week ending on May 29. That’s an increase from 43 percent out of stock in the week ending on May 8th.
Georgia has the highest percentages of retailers in the U.S. who say they’re out of stock for infant formula, according to data compiled by Datasembly in the week ending on May 22. Here’s a look at the Top 5 states with the highest percentage of infant formula out of stock.
Georgia: 94.39 %
Arizona: 94.10 %
Mississippi: 93.82 %
California: 93.72 %
Nevada: 92.15 %
- If you need help meeting your infant’s or child’s nutritional needs, WIC can help! See if you are eligible and apply here: https://gateway.ga.gov/access/
- American Academy of Pediatrics Guidance
- US HHS: Find Formula During the Infant Formula Shortage
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