The worst thing imaginable for any mother is not being able to feed their child. No matter the race, ethnicity, or faith of a mother, there is nothing more dreadful than seeing your child hungry and realizing there is nothing within your power you can do about it.
It’s the emotional pictures of starving babies in so-called Third World countries that we see on television screens with protruding bellies resting in the arms of their bone-thin mothers who swat at flies swarming their baby’s eyes that remind most First World mothers, “But for the grace of God, there go I.” For many of those mothers, the lack of nutrition from which they also suffer prevents them from producing enough breast milk to sustain their starving baby. So they sit and watch, rock and sing, hope and pray that someone who heard their cries will deliver a life-saving meal.
American mothers are blessed. For decades access to baby formula has never been something to wish for, it’s always been readily available. Expensive, yes, but accessible nonetheless. And its accessibility comes in degrees. In most neighborhoods, infant formula can be purchased off the shelves. But, most often in predominantly-Black and poor neighborhoods, it’s locked behind glass enclosures, or only accessible by store clerks who fetch it from a secured room. And, in some cases, there’s a limit on what they can purchase.
Breastfeeding for many mothers is a choice, though too few choose to do so. But for many others, it is not an option because of physical or even professional reasons.
The current national shortage of infant formula in many ways is the great equalizer between First World and Third World, rich or poor, majority or minority mothers. It brings into question the impact of environmental safety, accessibility, global supply chains and the pandemic stockpiling of a life-giving product that feeds and nourishes the next generation.
If this crisis has done nothing else, it proves there is a crisis impacting America’s food supply. It is a serious matter. Whether it is fruits and vegetables, meats, poultry or fish, or powdered infant formula, access, safety, quality and affordability are not a given anymore.