TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Baby formula is not only missing from store shelves, but also from non-profit pantries.
“You can see it on their faces when they come through the door of the church, asking if we have it. They’re just hoping, ‘maybe this week they have it’ and we just don’t,” said Michael Rippy, a pastor at First Baptist Church Midway in Plant City.
The church’s “Formula Closet” has been in operation for nearly a decade, providing formula for 80 to 100 families every week.
Usually, the church even sends surplus formula to Venezuela. But it has not received a donation in one month.
On Wednesday, 15 people came in one hour looking for formula.
“Anything is fine because there’s nothing at the store,” said one mother.
“We don’t have it and the need is there, still and we’re going to give it until we run out,” said Rippy.
Lakeland’s Carolyn Espina has a new baby at home, who also needs formula.
“I had to go to three different stores,” said Espina.
Espina is also the executive director of the New Life Center for Family Preservation, a non-profit organization for homeless and low-income parents. In conjunction with the Dream Center of Lakeland, Espina’s organization helps parents in need gain access to items, including diapers and baby formula.
Right now, they do not have any formula to share.
“When you’re on WIC, there’s only one particular kind of formula you can get, unless your baby’s sick or has a special need and that formula is gone. That formula is not available,” said Espina.
The nationwide baby formula shortage has wiped popular brands from the shelves, leading to difficult decisions for parents in poverty.
“What do you do? You can’t purchase it. You have no money,” said Espina.
Espina said one woman had to pay for a birth certificate for her new baby.
“She said she had $20 and she was torn between spending her $20 on formula for her baby or going down and purchasing the birth certificate that she needed. So we were able to supply her with the last bit of formula that was donated to us,” said Espina.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a website page with resources to help families who are unable to find formula. The site also has some phone hotline numbers and community resources listed.