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As shelves are left barren of infant formula, the San Jose City Council is making strategic plans to support struggling families.
A verbal update about the availability of infant formula was provided at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Following last month’s City Roadmap Update, the city manager was asked to coordinate with the County of Santa Clara to report on the shortage’s socioeconomic impact on San Jose, and explore the possibility of declaring a regional state of emergency, similar to the executive order signed in New York City.
Calls for strategic action on the infant formula shortage were raised in a May 23 memorandum issued by Councilmember Sylvia Arenas. The goal was to prioritize infant formula supply chains in terms of food and necessity distribution in San Jose.
This ongoing nationwide crisis is the result of large-scale voluntary recalls of infant formula from supplier Abbott Nutrition. According to Deputy City Manager Angel Rios Jr., a cursory review of grocery retailers in San Jose revealed that approximately 60 percent of retailers reported having minimal to no formula on their shelves.
While anxiety-ridden families and caregivers across the nation worry for their children’s needs, concerns have been raised regarding retailer price gouging. An emergency executive order would penalize retailers that seek to raise profits from this supply shortage. In San Jose, price gouging at grocery stores has lead to almost a 50 percent increase in formula costs, jumping from the average $18 to $27, according to City Council documents.
As a response, the deputy city manager announced during the meeting that the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors strengthened the Civil Protection and Emergency Management Ordinance by amending it to allow the punishment of any form of price gouging on infant formula.
During public comments, Tim James of the California Grocers Association made a statement from a retailer standpoint, concerned about misreports of data surrounding formula availability. “We ask the city to actively engage the grocery industry to fully understand and respond to the supply chain issues before recommending or implementing other mechanisms,” he said.
Deputy City Manager Rios Jr. seemed hopeful that supply chains will improve in the coming weeks, due to rearrangements of Abbott Nutrition’s production and coordination with the state and hospitals receiving federal support through Operation Fly Formula.
Mothers’ Milk Bank, a nonprofit located in San Jose, has also stepped up to fill further supply chain gaps by providing non-prescription based human milk throughout the community.
“Things do appear to be getting better from a supply standpoint,” Rios Jr. said, “although we’re not out of the woods yet.”