It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. But what if that village was found on Facebook? When Maggie Whitefoot of Kenosha began to take notice of the formula crisis affecting our nation, she knew that something needed to be done.
“I noticed that there were several national groups created to help parents find their specific formulas,” said Whitefoot, “but you’d have to sift through hundreds of posts to find anything nearby. That’s when I decided that we needed a group that functioned locally.” She launched the Kenosha & Racine Formula Finds group on May 15, and has acquired over 250 members since then.
The nationwide formula crisis is a product of COVID-19 related supply chain issues, compounded with the production shut down of an Abbott Labs plant located in Sturgis, Mich., following a massive recall due to bacterial contamination. Shelves have been barren across the country for months, and specialty formulas have been increasingly difficult to find, adding a new level of stress to many local families.
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“We’ve had mothers come to this group just desperate,” said group member Jessica Riviera, “Their babies are breaking out in hives because they need specialty formulas that just can’t be found anywhere.” Riviera understands this stress, as her daughter also requires a hypoallergenic formula. “I’ve shared what extra I had for my own daughter with other mothers free of charge. This group is all for the babies, and right now it’s scary,” she explained
Whitefoot, a homeschooling mother of two, has traveled extensively to help parents and guardians across Southeast Wisconsin find the formula they need, completely out of her own pocket. “My 12 year old is my sidekick,” Whitefoot said. “There have been days where he and I are bouncing from store to store, and he always encourages me to check ‘just one more.’” Whitefoot has traveled as far south as Waukegan and even brings back specialty formulas for local parents that she knows can be hard to find in Wisconsin.
“The time, the effort, and the money that she has put into this mission every day is why she deserves this recognition,” said Riviera.
One rule that Maggie Whitefoot makes sure is never broken in the Kenosha & Racine Formula Finds group is that no sale is ever made for profit. “Formula is sold for the price it is found at or lower,” said Whitefoot. “There are a lot of groups that are okay with free sample cans being sold for 10, even 20 dollars, and that is not our group,” said Maggie, “I watch like a hawk to make sure this group continues to be all about feeding the babies.”
“Since I’ve left the hospital two months ago with my daughter, this group has been the only way I have been able to find her formula,” said group member Simone Turner. “Most of the time I still have to buy formula from other members of the group. It’s really hard right now because even though I qualify for WIC, I can’t use it because I can’t find my daughter’s formula in stores.”
Whitefoot emphasizes that you do not need to be in search of formula for yourself to join the group. “WIC parents are limited to in store shopping, they can’t use their card online. That’s partly why posting (images) of shelves is so important, even if they are completely empty,” said Whitefoot, “You can save a desperate parent hours of searching by just taking a couple minutes out of your shopping trip to snap time and date stamp photo.”
Each day, Whitefoot creates a daily check-in post, where families can let group members know which formula they are in need of. “Because of Maggie’s compassion and diligence I have been able to keep our newborn fed, and now have built up a month’s supply of the formula I need,” said group member Katelin Maureen. Countless others shared the ways in which Whitefoot has gone out of her way to not only find the formula they need, but to even purchase it and deliver it to them when necessary.
“This group has blessed me as much as it has blessed others,” said Whitefoot, “I joke with my husband that at the end of this crisis, the whole group needs to get together for a barbeque, because we’ve built such an incredible and supportive community during such a dark time.”
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Bad public policy makes people vulnerable, and the current baby formula shortage is just the latest example.
No child should ever go hungry in the richest nation in the world. Yet in recent days, panicked parents and caretakers who rely on infant formula for their loved ones’ health and nutritional needs are contending with the skyrocketing prices of baby formula and a severe shortage in grocery stores.
For more information on where to find the formula that you need or to assist others in their search, look for Kenosha & Racine Formula Finds on Facebook.