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Keeping WIC Participants with Special Nutritional Needs Safe during the Infant Formula Shortage

Posted by Diane Kriviski, Associate Administrator for Supplemental Nutrition & Safety Programs, Food and Nutrition Service in Food and Nutrition
Sep 08, 2022
A medical provider uses a stethoscope to listen to a baby’s heartbeat

Finding infant formula has been stressful for families across the country – especially for those who require specialized formula to meet their baby’s specific health needs. However, from the earliest stages of the shortage, FNS has worked to ensure WIC families have access to the infant formula they need.

In WIC, specialty formulas are issued with a doctor’s note to participants receiving Food Package III, which is for children with special nutritional needs. These babies have a documented health condition that requires the use of a specialty formula. With specialty formula in short supply, many families have needed an alternative option.

WIC state agencies can use a variety of strategies to support participants’ access to specialty formulas, including:

  • Expanding their state authorized formula list to maximize alternative options for specialty formulas,
  • Collecting initial medical documentation over the phone versus in writing,
  • Streamlining medical documentation forms to facilitate quick completion and return from the doctor,
  • Encouraging doctors to prescribe multiple formula options on the medical documentation form, and
  • Requesting a waiver of the maximum monthly allowance of formula issued in Food Package III to offer more flexibility in container sizes.

USDA, working closely with the Department of Health and Human Services, FDA and the Biden-Harris Administration, has also supported access to specialized formula by coordinating cross-government to rapidly transport safe infant formula – including specialty formula – into the country through Operation Fly Formula. USDA also provided a toolkit and guidance to WIC state agencies and stakeholders to assist with distributing the imported formula.

More information about USDA’s response can be found on Food and Nutrition Service’s Infant Formula Shortage Response webpage.

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition

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