DC-area group gets creative to help families find baby formula

With parents hunting for infant formula amid a nationwide shortage, one D.C.-based group is stepping up to help.

“It’s been really great to see the community come together,” said Svetlana Vallie of The Napkin Network.



The organization — which was created at the beginning of the pandemic — has switched from helping parents with COVID-related struggles to helping them hunt for formula.

“The thought of walking into a grocery store to buy food for your child and not being there is terrifying,” Vallie said.

Shortages have been a problem because of supply chain issues and the recent shutdown of one major manufacturer’s plant due to possible contaminants.

In addition, Maryland’s Department of Health has announced resources available for families in the state affected by the formula shortage.

“MDH is working with federal, state, local and community partners to ensure Maryland families with newborns and infants have the information they need regarding options during this national formula shortage and recent recalls,” said the department’s secretary, Dennis Schrader.

“We will continue to monitor all aspects of the formula shortage and encourage families to access the numerous resources available to stay up to date.”

The Maryland WIC Program has expanded allowable sizes, brands and types of formula available with WIC electronic benefits.

If you are a Maryland WIC participant, Maryland’s Health Department advises that you contact your local WIC office for assistance locating products or making changes to your WIC food benefits.

If you are not a Maryland WIC participant, the department suggests you visit the Maryland WIC website to learn how to apply.

The department advises that you not dilute infant formula, because adding water or other liquids to infant formula can lead to serious nutritional deficits and health issues — and even be life-threatening.

It also says that for most babies, it is OK to switch to any available formula, and that you should call your child’s health provider if you have questions.

In the meantime, The Napkin Network is hosting formula meetups at a coffee shop on Fridays in Potomac with the goal of connecting parents to formula.

“We’re helping a lot of babies just in this past week, and so I’m excited for what more we can do,” Vallie said.

Their Facebook group is filled with pictures of people going to stores and asking people what they need as well as requests from parents searching for specific types of formula.

“It’s parents really helping out one another. It’s really turned hyperlocal with the community, where people are posting what they have, what they need,” Vallie said.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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