Suncoast mothers struggle to find baby formula amidst shortage

ABC7 News at 6pm
Published: May. 17, 2022 at 10:40 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Young families are going through hard times searching for desperately needed formula, but there’s hope as organizations are working hard to get food in the right hands.

Mothers around the Suncoast are in a frenzy, trying to find baby formula for their children wherever they can. However, even as the supply crisis worsens across the country, there is still hope for moms trying to get their hands on those precious containers.

Mothers Helping Mothers, a Sarasota nonprofit focused on supporting moms in the area, is one of the places where you can still find formula, though supplies are limited.

Martha Brookley, the child safety and outreach coordinator, showed ABC7 their back storage room where they usually have plenty of formula on hand. Lately, there’s only a handful of reserves stowed away.

“So, normally we stack our formula on this shelf all the way up to the ceiling,” she said gesturing at the mostly bare shelves. “So now we’re super low. We’re down to just one shelf.”

Dwindling supplies, but enough to keep going.

At the front of the nonprofit’s free store, Mothers Helping Mothers has a few weeks worth of baby formula stacked up by the register. Any mothers in need are welcome to take a single free when they stop by the store.

The whole stock is from donations because that’s one of the only ways to get formula these days. Usually, Brookley orders about $4,000 worth of formula every six months, but for now the cash is no good when even the big retailers are sold out everywhere online.

“Even though we have the funds, there is no way to purchase those things right now,” Brookley explained.

Johanna Davis has seen this time and again as she drives from store to store in Venice, every time finding nothing for her baby. Thankfully, she’s getting by with a network of donations through her church, The Venice Area Pregnancy Care Center, and, of course, Facebook.

“There’s more and more moms posting on Facebook talking about sharing their breastmilk and whatever they have,” Davis said. “A can here or a can there. Whatever you can spare.”

Spending so much time and mental energy on the tired search for formula is tough for any mom, and it’s even worse for parents like Hope Hobgood.

Her daughter Kiah has colic and acid reflux, which makes digestion a challenge. Hobgood found the Gentle baby formula is one of the only ones that agrees with her sensitive stomach, but unfortunately for her it’s popular.

That brand is nowhere to be found in stores around Bradenton, so Hobgood has been left with no choice but to feed Kiah whatever formula she can find. Oftentimes, her diet becomes a hodgepodge of various formulas that can do little good for her.

“She will just projectile vomit and that puts her stomach in more pain and then she’s hungry and it’s like you basically just have to feed her to give her something to throw up at that point,” Hobgood said.

It’s a horrible situation, but the alternative is letting her go without any food. Hobgood has talked to her pediatrician about the situation and they’re trying to find a better solution to get Kiah proper formula so she can return to a healthy diet.

Hobgood worries if she can’t solve this problem fast, her daughter will become malnourished, suffer weight loss and struggle to develop.

Luckily, she found one can of formula her daughter can digest properly, but the clock is ticking before that runs out too.

“I’ve got about five days to find another can,” Hobgood said with a dry chuckle.

When it does, the search is back on.

If you are struggling to find baby formula, you’re advised to call a pediatrician for guidance. However, ABC7 is also working on compiling this list of organizations helping parents find baby formula:

Mothers Helping Mothers

5933 N Washington Blvd, Sarasota


MHM Sarasota Helping Hands Facebook group

Venice Area Pregnancy Care Center

301 Bayshore Drive, Venice


If you know any other organizations helping mothers get access to formula, let us know by sending us a message on our Facebook page.

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