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From nonprofits to grassroots groups, community responds to help as formula shortage continues

Northwest Mothers Milk Bank has seen breast milk donations nearly triple since news of the shortage first broke.

PORTLAND, Ore. — As the baby formula shortage continues around the nation, the Portland community is stepping up. Volunteers and community organizations are looking for any way they can help parents who are scrambling to feed their babies.

Northwest Mothers Milk Bank in Tigard opened its doors to the community nine years ago with a mission is to help the most vulnerable and premature infants across the Pacific Northwest. 

The nonprofit processes up to 4,000 ounces of breast milk each day, according to executive director Lesley Mondeaux, with supplies donated by mothers who have excess milk.

"[Anyone] who’s healthy, nonsmoking, minimal medication use, we do a blood test," Mondeaux said. "Once they’re approved they can drop off milk, then we pasteurize the milk to make sure it has no bacteria or virus." 

RELATED: Baby formula shortage impacts Oregon families

The milk is then shipped to 75 hospitals across Washington, Oregon and Alaska — as well as to people in the community — to help feed thousands of babies.

Mondeaux said milk donors are heroes, and that became evident when the formula shortage began and the nonprofit began receiving more calls from people asking how to help. Calls from families wanting to donate milk almost tripled since the news of the shortage began to spread. 

"Our hearts are really warmed by the amazing community," Mondeaux said.

The milk bank prioritizes getting donor milk to babies with medical needs first, but with more donations now, they are able to help more families as this shortage continues.

RELATED: Biden administration working to fly more Nestlé formula to US from Europe

"There isn’t a lot of good news in the world right now, so it’s really exciting to be doing something for the good," Mondeaux said.

From nonprofits to grassroots groups, the mission to help out in the community during this tough time is widespread. Community members have also displayed a determined to help each other out directly. 

Sarah Fuller and Heather created the group Feeding Babes Bloc on different social media platforms about a week ago in response to the formula shortage. Their goal is connect Portland-area parents to the formula they need to feed their babies.

Credit: Feeding Babes Bloc
local women create social media group to help parents find the formula they needs

"A lot of people are posting formula aisle pictures to tell people which formula are in which store," Heather said. People hunt down the formula and donate or drop it off to families in need. 

"I think we have 19 families on our needed list right now," Fuller said, "and the offers of support keep pouring in. It’s just been a wonderful thing, really, really encouraging."

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