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Two Charlotte clinics to give out free baby formula amid shortage

Nearly-bare shelves are seen in the formula aisle at a Target store in Monroe.
Greg Collard
Nearly-bare shelves are seen in the formula aisle at a Target store in Monroe.

Charlotte’s StarMed Healthcare will hand out a limited supply of free baby formula on Tuesday amid a nationwide formula shortage.

Workers at StarMed’s clinics on Tuckaseegee Road and Central Avenue will distribute roughly 360 cans of formula on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at noon and as long as supplies last, according to CEO Mike Estramonte.

“This (shortage) is really stressful for parents,” Estramonte said Monday. “We’re hearing about it from every demographic, every group. It’s scary times.”

Estramonte said each of the two clinics has scheduled roughly a dozen extra staff members to work Tuesday in case the lines become long. StarMed is no stranger to high patient volume. During the omicron surge in early 2022, its clinic parking lots became massive COVID-19 testing sites with hundreds of people lining up for swabs.

“I hope it’s (the formula shortage) is nothing like that,” Estramonte said.

Formula is in short supply across the U.S., which has left many families scrambling. During the week ending May 8, 43% of baby formula was out of stock nationwide, according to the website Datasembly.

Amy Cunningham, a lactation consultant at Atrium Health Levine Children’s, encouraged Charlotte-area parents and caregivers struggling to find formula to contact their child’s primary care provider or pediatrician.

“We do get samples from the formula reps in our office, so we are most likely going to be able to help you find some amount of supply of that formula,” Cunningham said.

She also discouraged families from attempting to make their own formula or watering it down in an effort to make it last longer — practices the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also discouraged. The FDA has also said toddler formula, cow's milk and plant-based milk alternatives are not recommended before a child's first birthday.

The formula supply is low in part because the company Abbott in February issued a recall of some of its baby formula products, NPR reported. The voluntary recall included certain lots of Similac, Alimentum and Elecare formula products.

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Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia, where she majored in Comparative Literature and Spanish. Claire is originally from Richmond, Virginia. Reach her at cdonnelly@wfae.org or on Twitter @donnellyclairee.