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NC DHHS makes more Gerber products available to WIC families during formula shortage

Baby formula is displayed on the shelves of a grocery store with a sign limiting purchases in Indianapolis in May 2022.
Michael Conroy
Baby formula is displayed on the shelves of a grocery store with a sign limiting purchases in Indianapolis in May 2022.

North Carolina is making it easier for people who receive nutrition benefits to buy different types of baby formula.

North Carolina contracts with Gerber to provide formula for participants in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

Before the nationwide shortage, WIC recipients were restricted to certain types and sizes.

The state Department of Health and Human Services is waiving those limits. The agency says it's also working to buy formula in bulk and it's asking the federal government to ease other restrictions on the kinds of formula available to WIC beneficiaries.

“Many parents and caretakers are worried about getting infant formula to feed their babies right now, and North Carolina is taking action to create more options for families receiving WIC benefits," Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement. "By removing restrictions on the formula options that WIC families can purchase, it will be easier to get the formula they need.

Earlier this week, North Carolina’s WIC Program began making more sizes of Gerber formula available and it added two more Gerber formula products to the program — Gerber Good Start Gentle Supreme and NAN 1 Pro Infant Powder.

According to analysis by Bloomberg News, 84% of North Carolina retailers were out of stock of formula in the week ending with May 28.

“It’s vital that North Carolina families and caregivers have access to infant formula,” NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley said in a statement. “Working with our federal partners and Gerber, families on the WIC program will now have flexibility at the shelf to select sizes of products that usually aren’t covered by the program.”

Gerber is owned by Nestle. The Swiss food and nutrition company says it's importing nearly 250,000 cans of German-made formula to the U.S. by the end of the month.

More than half of infants nationwide participate in WIC. More options for WIC families are expected to be announced in the next few weeks.

In a release, the state DHHS warned parents to not “water down” baby formula to “stretch it out” as it can be dangerous to the child. DHHS also warns caretakers to not buy formula from online auctions or unknown sources.

DHHS has also assembled a list of resourcesfor families looking for formula.

Bradley George is WUNC's AM reporter. A North Carolina native, his public radio career has taken him to Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and most recently WUSF in Tampa. While there, he reported on the COVID-19 pandemic and was part of the station's Murrow award winning coverage of the 2020 election. Along the way, he has reported for NPR, Marketplace, The Takeaway, and the BBC World Service. Bradley is a graduate of Guilford College, where he majored in Theatre and German.
Mitchell Northam is a Digital Producer for WUNC. His past work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, SB Nation, the Orlando Sentinel and the Associated Press. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and is also a voter in the AP Top 25 poll for women's college basketball.
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