A military plane carrying enough specialty infant formula for more than half a million baby bottles arrived Sunday in Indianapolis, the first of several flights expected from Europe aimed at relieving a shortage that has sent parents scrambling to find enough to feed their children.
President Joe Biden authorized the use of Air Force planes for the effort, dubbed “Operation Fly Formula,” because no commercial flights were available.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was in Indianapolis to greet the arrival of the first shipment. The flights are intended to provide “some incremental relief in the coming days” as the government works on a more lasting response to the shortage, Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, said.
The White House has said 132 pallets of Nestle Health Science Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior formula left Ramstein Air Base in Germany for the U.S. Another 114 pallets of Gerber Good Start Extensive HA formula were expected to arrive in the coming days. Altogether, about 1.5 million 8-ounce bottles of the three formulas, which are hypoallergenic for children with cow’s milk protein allergies, are expected to arrive this week.
Indianapolis was chosen because it is a Nestle distribution hub. The formula will be offloaded into FedEx semitractor-trailers and taken to a Nestle distribution center about a mile away where the company will do a standard quality control check before distributing the supplies to hospitals, pharmacies and doctor’s offices, according to an administration official on site.
Nestle said that over the past few months it has worked “around the clock” to address the formula shortage and help meet demand.
“We have significantly increased the amount of our formulas available to consumers by ramping up production and accelerating general product availability to retailers and online, as well as through hospitals and home health care for those most vulnerable,” the company said in a release.
“At Nestle we are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to get parents and caregivers the formula they need so their children can thrive,” it added. “We prioritized these products because they serve a critical medical purpose as they are for children with cow’s milk protein allergies.”