This Free Website Connects Parents Who Need Formula With Those Who Have It
No price gouging, no scams, just parents helping parents.
Parents who use formula to feed their babies are scrambling to find it thanks to a nationwide shortage, resulting from pandemic-related supply chain issues, the February recall of multiple Similac products, and the shutdown of one of the country’s largest formula manufacturing plants. Moms and dads are checking multiple stores only to find empty shelves, scouring online retailers, and even paying major markups to buy formula on sites like eBay (bots keep snagging inventory online and reselling for profit, Forbes reports). Parents are even turning to social media to find formula, or at least some solidarity. In response, writer and communications director Keiko Zoll created the Free Formula Exchange.
The Free Formula Exchange is an online mutual aid network designed to connect parents in need of formula with others who have formula to donate. The site is free to use, and so is all of the formula offered there — in fact, paid transactions are prohibited, ensuring there can be no price gouging. Signing up to find or donate formula takes about two minutes.
When registering to request formula, simply enter your contact information and the type of formula you need, as well as any dietary considerations for your baby, and whether you are willing to receive opened formula. You can also rate the urgency of your formula needs. Once you complete the questionnaire, you’ll have access to a list of people with formula, and you can text or email them directly to set up the exchange. For those donating, you’ll enter the brand of formula you have on hand, and whether you’re able to ship it or would prefer to meet locally.
“All I'm trying to do with this website is to connect people who need formula with people who have it,” said Zoll to NBC News Boston. “To take the marketplace element out of it because this is about keeping our children fed. And feeding our babies is a human right.”
The formula shortage began in February 2022 when Abbott Nutrition recalled some lots of Similac, Similac Alimentum, EleCare, and Similac PM 60/40 powdered formulas after four babies were affected by Cronobacter infections (a foodborne illness), according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Abbott’s manufacturing center in Sturgis, Michigan was subsequently closed for FDA inspections, though as CBS News reports, it is slated to reopen around May 30.
In addition to reopening the plant, on Monday, May 16, President Joe Biden announced that more baby formula will be imported from foreign manufacturers to help alleviate the shortage, saying the FDA will “streamline” its review process to get formula on shelves faster, the Associated Press reported.
While these steps could ease the shortage soon, what should parents in need of formula do in the meantime? In addition to checking out the Free Formula Exchange, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ list of manufacturer hotlines and community groups, call your pediatrician’s office for samples, or contact your local food banks and WIC/SNAP offices. It’s also important to discuss any formula alternatives you may consider using with your child’s pediatrician, as many recipes for homemade formula circulating online are unsafe, according to experts. For more guidance on how to feed your baby safely during this stressful shortage, check out the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recommendations.