By Jamille Whitlow

On Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m., cars were lined across the StarMed Healthcare parking lot on the outskirts of Charlotte. 

Under a white tent, volunteers were handing out small paper bags filled with one canister of baby formula to people who had waited an hour to get nourishment for their babies.

StarMed has become a part of a statewide effort to  distribute formula  to families who have searched far and wide to find the necessity on store shelves. 

On Thursday, StarMed had more than 700 canisters to give away.

This was the agency’s second giveaway.  There was no registration required.

StarMed spent $70,000 to buy a shipment that came in bulk from medical suppliers such as McKesson and Medline, according to Chief Operating Officer Tracey Hummell. 

“It is a significant cost but we’re willing to do that for our community and patients and that is what is important to us at this point,” Hummell said.

StarMed, newly based in Charlotte with primary and urgent care clinics, has become widely known for promoting health and safety, in part, because it has provided COVID-19 vaccines and been a place where people can get tested for COVID-19 during the pandemic.

Through other services provided by the clinics, the company was able to raise enough capital to help ease problems from the shortage of baby formula, Hummell said.

Shows a group of people wearing masks standing in a large outdoor tent. They've got a table in front of them that's filled with paper bags filled with cans of baby formula and printed information.
StarMed Healthcare workers are lining up bags of formula on the table just in time to give out bags to their first rush of cars. Photo credit: Jamille Whitlow

Operation Fly Formula

In February, Abbott Laboratories, one of the country’s largest suppliers of Similac and other powder formulas with fully 40 percent of market share, recalled products made in a Michigan plant.

The plant manufactured almost 90 percent of the Similac made in the U.S., according to Food Safety News. The plant’s voluntary shutdown has caused so many problems that President Joe Biden launched Operation Fly Formula.

Different companies and even countries have stepped in to deliver formula to the U.S. Over 70,000 pounds of baby formula have been shipped from manufacturers in Europe. As the formula comes in, FedEx Express helps distribute the cargo to states.  

There are a variety of formulas such as Gerber, Nestlé and hypoallergenic for sensitive babies that have been available for families who are desperate to feed their children.

Deja Wilkerson, a mother of a 10-month old daughter found out about the event from a friend who texted her on Instagram. Meanwhile, she’s been traveling from store to store looking for formula and has driven to South Carolina just to pick it up. She got her information from social media, primarily Facebook Marketing. According to Wilkerson, a can of formula lasts a day or two for her child. 

“This is a big girl, she is heavy, and she eats a lot,” said Wilkerson. 

When asked about having a baby formula giveaway outside Charlotte, Hummell said that StarMed would be shipping 700 canisters to their Onslow County site in Jacksonville.

The formula for Onslow already was stacked and ready to go.

shows an organized array of brown paper bags filled with baby formula sitting on the ground in a large tent
Each paper bag was filled with one canister of baby formula. StarMed workers were on standby to replace paper bags from their display table and answer questions. Photo credit: Jamille Whitlow

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Jamille is NC Health News' Emma Bowen Foundation summer 2022 intern. She hails from Charlotte and graduated from North Carolina A&T State University with her bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism....