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With baby formula shortage, Whaley says Ohio could do more to help families

A grocery store in central Ohio shows empty shelves in the baby formula section.
Daniel Konik
/
Statehouse News Bureau
A grocery store in central Ohio shows empty shelves in the baby formula section.

As families struggle with the nationwide baby formula shortage, the Democratic nominee for Ohio governor wants to know why the state has not done more to relieve the stress — particularly for low-income Ohioans.

Nan Whaley, Democratic nominee for Ohio governor, said other states saw the formula shortage happening earlier and took advantage of the waivers provided through the federal WIC (Women, Infant, Children) program to help low-income parents find and afford the baby formula their infants need.

“These waivers were designed to help them. Forty-five states and territories have fully taken advantage of these waivers to help alleviate the crisis. Ohio has not," Whaley said.

Whaley said the waivers, which lift certain restrictions on the types of baby formula people on the WIC program can purchase, have been available for three months. She noted Republican governors in other states have taken advantage of the waivers. As Whaley explained, low-income parents who depend on WIC do not have the resources to buy formula out-of-pocket and often lack transportation to travel to and from different stores looking for the product their baby needs.

"This is a moral crisis. We need an all hands on deck approach to help these mothers and babies," Whaley said.

The shortage can be particularly tough for WIC families because they are restricted to purchasing certain sizes and brands of formula. Whaley said, as a result, some Ohio mothers are rationing their baby's formula. Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Ohio Department of Health director, cautioned Ohioans to avoid taking certain measures to conserve formula.

"We strongly warn against any attempt to dilute your formula or make homemade formula. These are just not good options," Vanderhoff said.

Vanderhoff said the Ohio WIC program has been working with federal agencies and formula manufacturers to mitigate the problem. He said the state has applied for federal waivers and that changes are being made to allow WIC recipients more choice of formula types and sizes that haven't previously been permitted. He had some advice for WIC parents who cannot find what they need.

"Consider calling the store and ask about product availability. If you don't see the formula you need on the shelves, consider kindly asking a store associate for assistance," Vanderhoff said.

Vanderhoff said Ohioans can also call their local WIC office for assistance.

In a written statement, a spokesperson for Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, took issue with Whaley’s characterization of the problem.

"Once again, this is yet another dishonest, misleading press release from Nan Whaley and Ohio Democrats. They should be ashamed for trying to play politics regarding this real issue for Ohio mothers and children," the statement read.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.