By: Karen Ridlon, Founder and Executive Director Emeritus of Eastside Baby Corner
March 25-30 marks Hunger Action Week, which highlights those that are at risk of hunger, as well as hunger’s harmful impact on our community.
While this week shines a light on those in our community without enough food to eat, we pose the question, “What about babies without enough to eat?”
Why is formula an important ‘hunger’ problem? Whereas food for hungry families can be economized by purchasing a variety of cheap alternatives, there are no ways to safely economize infant formula.
Infant formula safely provides babies with the building blocks they need to build brain cells and brain connections. Brain connections in infants are built at an extremely high rate, and every day that goes by that an infant is not provided with the nutrition necessary to build brain cells, the opportunity to build those cells is lost.
What about breast milk? Breast milk is still the ideal source of nutrition for infants, but not all babies are able to nurse well and not all mothers are able to provide sufficient milk for their babies.
Picture Janet, a 32-year-old single mother of a newborn who works at a local fast-food restaurant to make ends meet. For Janet, every day she misses work is a day’s wages lost, but at her work there are no opportunities to pump. Janet must rely on formula, and a baby-sitter, to be able to go back to work to pay the increasing pile of bills.
Now imagine Janet shopping at the grocery store. She scans the aisles, and is astonished at how expensive it is to give her newborn all the critical nutrition she needs when she can’t breast feed. A 12oz can of powdered formula that feeds a baby for approximately 3 days costs $16 a can.
When parents like Janet cannot afford to buy formula, they typically do 1 of 2 things: 1) water formula down or 2) feed the baby soda, juice, or a liquid that is much less expensive than a $16 can of formula that only lasts 3 days. Both alternatives are not ideal, but the first option of watering formula down is also incredibly dangerous. Watered down formula can lead to too much ingestion of water by the infant, which can cause life threatening health risks.
How do we help? For 23 years, our social service organization, Eastside Baby Corner (EBC), has been committed to making sure that every infant has the formula they need to reach their full potential. Since our inception in 1990, we have fulfilled every order, a 100% fill rate, for formula. This task is not easy, as formula is one of our most requested items; during the first 10 weeks of 2012 alone, we received over 645 requests for formula from our partner agencies and food banks. Since EBC is committed to ensuring that every child that requests formula from our agency receives it, we purchase any formula that we are not able to provide through community donations. Due to rising formula costs, this year we have had to allot $10,000 more dollars to our purchasing budget to offset the price increases.
What can you do? Donate formula with a shelf life of 6 months or more to Eastside Baby Corner, and we will ensure that your donations go to babies and mothers who desperately need it.
By giving kids what they need to thrive, we will never have to ask ourselves “What could this child have done in the world, if they had been given every opportunity to reach their full potential?”
About Eastside Baby Corner
Eastside Baby Corner helps kids thrive by providing basic necessities for children so that EBC’s partners—schools, social service agencies, food banks, hospitals--can help families become stable, safe, housed, fed and employed. Relying almost exclusively on volunteers, EBC takes in donations of children’s clothing and goods from the community and supplements donations with purchases of the absolute essentials for children: baby food, formula, car seats, port-a-cribs and diapers. As the vital safety net under family-assistance providers, EBC annually distributes over 40,000 items for kids from birth to age 12 directly to nearly every agency serving families in east King County. Founded by pediatric nurse practitioner, Karen Ridlon in 1990, EBC helps more than 500 children each week.
Eastside Baby Corner
PO Box 712
Issaquah, WA 98027
425-865-0234 ext 709