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78,000 lbs of infant formula arrive in Indianapolis

formula air force plane.PNG
Ramstein Airmen prepare critical infant formula shipments for U.S.
Posted at 10:30 AM, May 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-23 10:24:58-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Operation Fly Formula's first shipment of 78,000 pounds of specialty infant formula arrived at the Indianapolis International Airport (IND) Sunday morning.

A plane from Ramstein Air Base in Germany brought the formula. President Joe Biden launched Operation Fly Formula to speed up the import of infant formula and start getting more formula to stores as soon as possible. According to the White House, this formula will be distributed to doctors office and pharmacies and not store shelves.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is also in Indianapolis. He spoke on the tarmac shortly after the plane landed and says the shipment should help around 9,000 babies and 18,000 toddlers for one week.

The shipment was taken off of the cargo plane and loaded onto FedEx trucks before being taken to a Nestle distribution center. Then, the formula will be delivered to hospitals and home healthcare clinics across the country.

"The reason why we are doing this is obviously the critical need that is out there," Vilsack said. "This is an important step, but it is by no means the only step that must take place."

Vilsack says half of the formula used in the United States is often funneled through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, better known as WIC.

"As we move forward in this process, I think the challenge for those of us in government is to figure out ways in which we can learn from this experience, develop greater resiliency in the supply chain, greater flexibility in the supply chain, so that we're in a position to be able to respond quickly if we ever have a disruption of this magnitude in the future," Vilsack said.

Vilsak says he believes another flight with formula will come into Dulles International Airport later this week.

Sources tell WRTV's Rafael Sanchez that Indianapolis was chosen for the shipment partially because of IND's distribution capabilities. The airport also has a navigation system the military can use.

FedEx Express President and CEO-elect Richard Smith said the company's network was built for this type of situation.

"This is really who we are and what we do," Smith said. "So we are proud to be part of this effort to help save lives."

In total, the Operation shipments will transport the equivalent of up to 1.5 million 8 oz. bottles of three formulas — Alfamino Infant, Alfamino Junior and Gerber Good Start Extensive HA. Each of these formulas is a hypoallergenic formula for children. Additional flights are expected to be announced in the coming days.

NESTLÉ CEO Mark Schneider released the following statement:

"We’re proud to be able to make a difference in the lives of children and their parents and caregivers who are struggling to find formula right now due to the recent shortage.

During the past few months, our teams at Nestlé Health Science, Gerber, and elsewhere throughout Nestlé have pulled out all stops to be part of the solution. Their effort harkens back to our original purpose 150 years ago, when Henri Nestlé developed farine lactée infant food to save the life of a child who could not be breastfed. Their dedication to our consumers has shone through in the efforts of our employees who are working around the clock to increase the availability of safe and nutritious formulas. It’s why we immediately accelerated the import of specialty products since the early days of this crisis. We are committed to continuing this important work and providing guidance to caregivers through our 24/7 helplines and other resources.

While more is on the way, our hope is that this progress gives concerned parents a little more comfort to know we are committed to doing all we can to support them during this time.”

Steven and Megan Gendig feed their daughter Ensley a specific kind of formula due to her dairy allergy. Lucky for mom Megan she is able to feed her breast milk part of the time.

The family said having formula heading to the states is a weight off their shoulders.

"For us it's a significant huge relief for us, but I know for moms that are specifically formula feeding this is a huge huge relief for them and now we know that we can go to bed and sleep well knowing that our babies can be fed," Megan said.

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