‘It’s pure panic’: Parents of Florida twins spent more than 4 hours driving to find baby food

‘It’s pure panic’: Parents of Florida twins spent more than 4 hours driving to find baby food

When Erik and Kelly Schmidt, both 35, walked into a Central Florida Target store this week to buy their usual Up & Up Gentle baby food for their five-month-old twins, they found an empty shelf.

The pair then embarked on a half-day journey in search of formula, any formula, and their search didn’t end there. “We spent over four hours visiting each destination, various Walmarts WMT,
+0.39%,
different grocery stores and just can’t find anything,” said Erik Schmidt.

The Schmidts moved to Florida from New York in March in search of a lower cost of living. Erik Schmidt works from home as a graphic designer, while Kelly just got a new job as an office clerk at a local church. They were looking to stock up on baby food for an upcoming two-day trip to Walt Disney World when they hit the nationwide baby food shortage.

“It’s pure panic,” said Kelly Schmidt. When she saw the empty shelf, she started writing to her mother, who was watching the twins. She avoided calling, although it would have been quicker. She was unable to speak, she said.

“Because I’m freaking out,” she said. “And now if I happen to talk to anyone, I’ll cry, I’ll yell at them for no reason. As if something bad was going to happen. I just have to focus on what we’re doing and worry about nothing else. ”

Abbott’s ABT,
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The February recall of Similac baby formula exacerbated a baby formula shortage that began late last year due to supply chain disruptions. Across the country, amid panic hoarding, new buying restrictions and rising prices due to shortages, parents are scrambling for baby formula.

Formula is considered the only safe alternative to breast milk, and making your own is not an option. President Joe Biden on Friday pledged steps to fix the shortage, saying there was “nothing more urgent that we are working on.”

The popular Up & Up Gentle of the Schmidt twins is a Target TGT,
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Private label baby formula and is not part of Abbott’s safety recall. The fallout from the Abbott recall still hit the Schmidts and their twins, Lily and Jameson. A week or two ago the shortage wasn’t obvious when Erik went into the store and got the usual stock.

“If the shortage was then, it wasn’t that bad,” he said. “I don’t know when it actually started, I don’t even know why or how it happened, it’s just there, empty shelves, like ‘Boom’.”

After finding the empty Target shelf and searching for hours without success for their regular brand or something similar, the Schmidts finally bought a can of formula from a brand they had never tasted or heard of before. It was the only thing available. The Schmidts use Up & Up Gentle to feed their twins because it doesn’t upset their stomachs and it’s cheaper than Enfamil Gentlease.

The search then continued into the night when the two went online. They discovered that the discounter Aldi carried a formula designed to be easy on babies’ stomachs and that there were four or five Aldi stores within a few hours’ drive of them.

The next morning, at 9 a.m., Erik was waiting for the door to open at an Aldi. No luck. It took trips to three other stores, but around 10:30 he found what he was looking for: Little Journey Gentle, the Aldi equivalent of their regular brand.

“They only had six left. I left two on the shelf because I didn’t want to be ‘that guy,'” he said.

Jameson and Lily Schmidt, five-month-old twins, usually take bottles of Up & Up Gentle baby formula, but it’s sold out in Target stores in recent days. The twins’ parents spent hours driving and looking online for the formula or something similar.

Courtesy of Eric Schmidt

The couple said they typically need 15 to 16 bottles of formula mix for the twins a day, and their usual Target can makes 36 bottles. As Aldi’s packaging is slightly smaller, they said the four cans they found – which required “a solid six hours” of driving and overnight online searching – will likely last them for about a week.

“Even without the shortage, when he goes to the store to buy two weeks’ worth of stuff because we have twins, people look at him like a monster, like he’s hoarding formula,” said Kelly Schmidt. “Now it’s not enough anymore. We don’t have a baby, we have two babies, so we need double the amount that a normal human would use.”

Target, Walmart, Aldi and Enfamil did not respond to requests for comment.

Abbott Laboratories said Wednesday it should be able to get some baby food products back on shelves in July. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has taken action, including importing more formulas from overseas, to address the shortage.

As she waits for supplies to return to normal, Kelly Schmidt plans to keep checking the Target website and be ready to order her family’s regular brand once it appears to have been restocked. She also oversees the supply of Enfamil Gentlease, a brand the twins have previously used but that costs twice as much as Target’s.

The couple’s plight resonated with friends far and wide. They have posted on Facebook about their situation and received messages of support, with friends who have promised to keep an eye out for formulas for them, Erik Schmidt said.

If the shortage continues into July, the couple isn’t sure what they will do. Breastfeeding isn’t an option, Kelly said, because her milk dried up months ago.

“I don’t even know, will you get it if we find it? ‘ Kelly Schmidt said of how they plan to feed the twins after they’ve finished the Aldi cans. If they can’t find more of what they’re using now, they can try a regular formula — not the kind that’s easy on the baby’s stomach. While it’s not perfect, it’s an option, Kelly Schmidt said.

“We could put them back on a normal one, it won’t suit their stomachs, but at least they’ll eat,” she said.

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