A Baby Formula Shortage Leaves Desperate Parents Searching for Food

Across the country, many mothers say they are rationing food for their babies as they search for more formula. Some are driving several hours, only to find more empty shelves.

Online, private sellers are gouging prices, marketing cans for double or triple their normal price, and many large retailers are sold out altogether.

Sparsely stocked shelves at a Walgreens in San Antonio.Credit…Kaylee Greenlee Beal for The New York Times

“We recognize that many consumers have been unable to access infant formula and critical medical foods they are accustomed to using and are frustrated by their inability to do so,” the F.D.A. commissioner, Dr. Robert M. Califf, said in a statement on Tuesday. “We are doing everything in our power to ensure there is adequate product available where and when they need it.”

San Antonio is a city that has seen the nation’s highest rate of formula shortages — 56 percent of normal supplies were out of stock as of Tuesday, according to the retail software company Datasembly — amid a nationwide supply crunch that has left parents scrambling to feed their children.

The shortage has been a challenge for families across the country, but it is especially palpable at grocery stores and food banks in San Antonio, a Latino-majority city in South Texas where many mothers lack health insurance and work at low-wage jobs that give them little opportunity to breastfeed. Across the city, baby food aisles are nearly empty and nonprofit agencies are working overtime to get their hands on new supplies.

The shortage became acute with a recall of a defective brand this year after at least four babies were hospitalized with bacterial infection and at least two babies died. But the recall has been exacerbated by relentless supply-chain woes and labor shortages. The Datasembly research found that the national out-of-stock rate for baby formula reached 43 percent for the week ending Sunday, up 10 percent from last month’s average.Image

From the New YorkTimes