Local food banks, families hit hard by formula recall
Last month, Abbott Laboratories recalled some lots of Similac, Alimentum and EleCare powdered formula for babies. Five infants who consumed the formula were hospitalized with Cronobacter or salmonella, and two died.
The recall is putting financial stress on local families and the food banks they rely on to help feed their babies.
The Graham/South Hill Nourish Food Bank in Pierce County had to throw away nearly every can of formula on its shelves. That’s about 60 cans, or more than $1,000 worth of powdered formula.
In King County, the White Center Food Bank and Baby Pantry was in a similar situation.
“We ended up tossing about a thousand pounds of formula, which is most of our supply,” said Jefferson Rose, the communications director for the White Center food bank.
What does 1,000 pounds look like? Rose said to picture a shelving unit 10 feet tall and 15 feet wide, full of formula for babies in need – and then throw it away.
It’s a huge loss for the food banks and for families.
Julie Wiesen, manager of Graham/South Hill Nourish Food Bank, says that when customers can't get formula at the food bank, it ripples through the rest of their food budget.
“So then they're having to purchase baby formula, which you know, can cost $18 to $25 or more dollars per can, which is really only good for a few days,” Wiesen said. “They're using their food stamp money then to purchase the baby formula, which is less food they can purchase for their family.”
And the cost of formula means it will take time to replenish food banks’ shelves.
Wiesen says many people who give to the Graham/South Hill food bank are former customers who want to give back to those who helped them. While they may have the resources to donate food, formula is in a whole other budget category.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
The formula recall is affecting all organizations that distribute formula. Check with your local food bank or family support center about what they need.