PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island parents participating in the federally-funded WIC program can now purchase more than one type of baby formula using their benefits.
President Joe Biden signed the Access to Baby Formula Act into law over the weekend, which allows WIC participants to purchase different brands, types and container sizes of baby formula amid the ongoing shortage.
WIC participants typically get vouchers that are redeemed for specific foods to supplement their diets. The vouchers usually can only be used to purchase one brand of baby formula, which encourages the manufacturer to offer big discounts to secure a state’s business.
Rhode Island is one of several states that has a WIC contract with Abbott Nutrition, one of the country’s largest baby formula manufacturers that issued a sweeping recall of its products earlier this year.
The Abbott recall, exacerbated by ongoing supply chain issues, prompted a nationwide baby formula shortage that sent parents scrambling.
Kristine Campagna, associate director of the Rhode Island Department of Health’s Division of Community Health and Equity, tells 12 News the expansion of WIC benefits will provide relief to parents across the state.
“Certain brands, like Similac and Enfamil for example … are interchangeable,” Campagna explained.
Campagna said there are an estimated 30,000 Rhode Island families that rely on WIC benefits, and approximately 165 vendors that accept WIC vouchers.
“This can be a really stressful time for families,” Campagna added.
Instead of purchasing only one brand of formula in limited sizes and types, Rhode Island WIC participants can now choose from several products as substitutes.
Campagna said parents whose babies need specialized formula are encouraged to discuss potential substitutes with their pediatrician.
The new law only allows for WIC substitutions in extenuating circumstances, meaning the products are unavailable or in limited supply.