Pitt, Onslow County health leaders explain baby formula waiver

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – A new USDA program is adding more to the list of what baby formula brands moms can get using WIC, but there are still limitations. This is to help fight the formula shortage we’ve been telling you about for weeks. We sat down with public health leaders in our area and some moms to get their take on the expansion.

It’s not easy to be a parent, but this nationwide formula shortage is adding even more stress to everyday life for moms in Pitt County.

“I usually just drive around just looking, and if they ain’t got any, then I’ll probably just get some cash and then turn around and go back and look again,” said mother Antileya Ballard. Ballard is one of around 5,000 people who use WIC in Pitt County each month. It’s a program for low-income mothers, babies and children up to five years old.

“We get nine cans a month,” said mother Racquel Streeter. She also buys formula for her baby son through WIC.

Mothers like these are now getting a bit of relief through the program.

“I have noticed a lot of panic in moms not being able to feed their babies. The idea of not being able to provide something to my baby just because it’s not there,” said Pitt County Health’s Nutrition Supervisor Elizabeth Milton. She said this waiver will make it more likely that moms can get what they need in one trip.

“So if… the baby’s on soy, they don’t have to specifically get Gerber soy. They could possibly get a store brand or like Enfamil or Similac if it is in the stores as well. We are encouraging the Gerber though, just because that change is just temporary. But once it does go away, they’ll be back on the Gerber,” explained Milton.

In Onslow County, about 7,500 people are covered under WIC. Health officials are working to give people the guidance they need to navigate the challenge. “Our clients, we can’t expect them to go to five different stores across the county,” explained Onslow County Health Community Relations Officer Victoria Morales. She said their WIC team is doing everything they can to talk participants through the process of obtaining formula. “They’re monitoring, talking with our vendors. So we’re hoping that just by that open communication with our vendors along with our clients, we’re hoping to at least relieve a little bit of stress. I know our peer, our breast-feeding peer counselors are also staying pretty busy.”

There’s a WIC app where people with WIC should have been notified about this USDA expansion, but if you don’t have that or you just have questions, you should call your local health department.

Mothers interested in breastfeeding can be part of Better Beginnings Breastfeeding Program in Pitt County. For more information, call 252-902-2381.

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