BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — Congress continues to take key steps to combat the baby formula shortage, but can those steps help West Virginians?
Eight thousand infants receive support from WIC programs in West Virginia every month as 6,500 families use those resources for formula. Heidi Staats is the Director of Nutrition Services for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. She said the formula shortage impacts low-income families the most.
“You can see that they do not have the option to order online or go 50 miles out of their way to find product,” said Staats.
The formula shortage only recently took center stage across the country, but Staats said the formula shortage hit West Virginians back in September 2021. Staats said the DHHR worked with facilities in and out of state to bring formula to families in need, but the last few months proved even more of a challenge.
“I think having, once again, that united front does help with the family’s anxiety, but being a mom myself, I have a 19-month-old who no longer needs formula, but I can imagine if this was happening to me while she needed formula just the ongoing stress of that,” said Staats.
New bills passed by the House of Representatives aim to ease restrictions for families relying on WIC programs and help bring formula back to the shelves. Staats said regular formula supply is on the rise, but these new bills can help speed up the production of medicated and specialized formulas. She expects more supply to be available for families in the next eight weeks, bringing a long-awaited end to an unimaginable challenge.
“Around 8 weeks, we should really start seeing a difference in those hypo-allergenic formulas that are currently difficult to get at the moment or any of those metabolics because that facility specialized in those products,” Staats said. “So, much like we are seeing the rebound right now with formulas that are just standard milk-based formulas, I think we will continue to see that once our specials get back into production.”
If passed by the Senate, these bills provide more financial support to formula companies like Abbott and boost the workforce needed to increase production.