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Parents get baby essentials in south Charlotte: 'I know how it feels to be driving around looking for formula'

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said it continues to track infant formula supply across the state and support families in need.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Months after it began, the baby formula shortage caused by the pandemic, supply chain issues and a major recall continues to impact families. It's getting better, but some parents, still can’t find what they need. Tuesday, LendingTree Foundation partnered with Atrium Health to help families get the essentials they need.

Baby products like diapers, wipes and infant formula are at the top of the list for parents.

People who live in the Montclaire community in south Charlotte said community events like these go a long way to help during the infant formula shortage.

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“Baby formula... That is the only way that these babies eat and when you can’t find it at the grocery store there is a panic that ensues,” Vita DeCegligo with LendingTree said.

A mother herself, she personally donated infant formula for the giveaway. She said lack of transportation and time also creates barriers.

“I know how it feels to be driving around looking for formula,” DeCegligo said. “The reality is not everyone has the means to take time out of their workday to drive around to all the different stores to look for formula.”

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said it continues to track infant formula supply across the state and support families in need.

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Since the white house launched Operation Fly Formula it is seeing improvements. It has also increased the number of brands, types and sizes of formulas people can buy with WIC.

"During the shortage, these additional options help families participating in WIC to access the formula available in stores in their community," NCDHHS said, in part, in a statement. "To date, NCDHHS has made 80 additional formula products temporarily available to WIC families. These temporary options are expected to be in place throughout the formula shortage, with USDA’s guidance indicating the waivers allowing those options will be in effect through the earlier of either Sept. 30, 2022, or the expiration date of the national COVID-19 major disaster declaration."

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Through Operation Fly Formula, tons of shipments have come in from other countries. As of Aug. 3, nearly 64 million eight-ounce bottle equivalents were transported to the United States.

“Once it got nationwide attention, and they started flying it in from other countries to stores most in need things started to alleviate and get better a little bit,” Katie Williams, a mom, said.

Williams donated breast milk to help during the shortage. Although she said parents are feeling less pressure it can still take a trip or two for families to find what they need.

“Because the vendors have prioritized making those hard-to-find special needs formulas for lactose intolerant or with a protein allergy... Now the hard-to-find is just the basic infant formula,” Williams said.

WCNC Charlotte checked in with CLT Baby Formula Watch, which had photos posted from Target in Midtown Charlotte showing stocked shelves. 

But not all stores are as plentiful.

Meanwhile, families are thankful for community efforts like these because now they have the next few meals covered for their babies.

“When they know they have relief for the next few days or weeks, that there is formula in hand... It feels good to be able to provide that peace of mind to them," DeCegligo said.   

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The groups are also helping families connect to resources online so they can order and buy the formula they need.

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Those facing challenges feeding their children are encouraged to speak to their doctor or reach out to the local health department to be connected with resources. 

This event also provided backpacks and essential school supplies for students.

“I did not have a backpack, and it’s exciting because sometimes it is hard to get supplies,” 5th-grader Junior Vasquez said.

It’s their way to help ease the burden some families face.

“A lot of inflation, prices have gone up and everybody is struggling because sometimes they have two to three children. So it was definitely needed,” Gina Chavez, a community health worker for Atrium Health, said. 

Contact Jesse Pierre at jpierrepet@wcnc.com or follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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