Though not a formula maker and unable to single-handedly fix supply chain issues affecting baby formula, this Swampscott mom still does whatever it takes to help families find food for their babies.
Friday night after work, Keiko Zoll, a communications professional, launched Free Formula Exchange, a mutual aid network aimed at connecting people who need formulas with people who can donate formulas.
In just three days, her website received over 500 requests for formulas, and 70 people volunteered to donate formulas from across the country, Zoll told Boston.com Monday morning.
“I would love it if this site didn’t have to exist in the first place. If so, I hope it’s only for a very short time, but I’m not entirely optimistic,” said Zoll.
According to retail software company Datasembly, the percentage of out-of-stock products nationwide reached 43% in the week ended May 8. The shortage, attributed in part to supply chain issues related to the pandemic, a formula recall and the closure of an Abbott Nutrition factory, has worsened since January.
Now stories of families buying formulas online at high prices and rationing food for their children are becoming more commonplace.
“I had one of those NPR ascension moments — I was listening to a podcast explaining the baby food shortage crisis, and I was very emotionally overwhelmed hearing stories of moms just trying to feed their babies,” Zoll said.
Hearing stories of families searching eBay and paying high prices for just a few cans of formula infuriated them and motivated them to try to make a difference, Zoll said.
She said she also empathizes with the stories she’s heard on NPR and read online about her son, now 9, relying on formula for a time as a baby.
“I remember how difficult it was trying to get that formula nine years ago,” Zoll said. “I can’t imagine being the same mother of a premature baby trying to find that formula now during a national shortage.”
The Free Formula Exchange is designed to bring together people who need formulas and people with excess formula – Customs is not involved in providing formulas. People wishing to donate or receive simply fill out a form with basic information and are then directed to a platform that has a list of everyone on the opposite side of the exchange.
There are points to note what type of formula you speak, what languages you speak, where you are located, and a host of other factors that can narrow down who should team up to facilitate an exchange.
“This page was only created three days ago, and I’m already reaching my usage limits with this form that people have to fill out,” said Zoll. “The demand is clearly there. The need is there.”
Zoll said she hopes the site will be gone in a month, because that would mean the shortage was over and families wouldn’t be struggling to the extent they are now. However, as solving this problem is a long and complicated process, she hopes to do whatever she can in the meantime.
“The short-term goal right now is just mobilize, mobilize, mobilize,” Zoll said. “It’s direct action, it’s about getting the formula into the hands of families who need it right now – that’s the most important thing.”
The site is not a paid service and customs do not create a space for people to sell formulas. Rather, she focuses on helping one another and how people “can just help [their] Fellow men.”
“I’m not a formula maker, I can’t make formulas appear… But I know how to make a website, and I know how to do marketing, and I know how to spread the word, and I know how to.” organize and mobilize and activate,” said Zoll. “I felt so compelled to do something because moms do it. We see a problem, we help. This is very much a moment of mobilizing motherhood and actually showing up for one another.”
Inch is a working mom and is looking for volunteers to help make Free Formula Exchange the best it can be and help as many people as possible.
“Feeding our babies is a human right,” Zoll said.
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https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2022/05/16/motherhood-mobilization-mass-woman-starts-free-formula-exchange/ dimensions Woman starts free formula exchange