RALEIGH, N.C. — Store shelves are not the only place families living in and near the Triangle are finding baby formula. 


What You Need To Know

The Catholic Parish Outreach feeds 5,000 people a month

Baby formula is included in the weekly groceries delivered to families    

Kelly Rappl, the CPO Program Director, said the pantry received donations redirected from other nonprofits that closed during the pandemic


The Catholic Parish Outreach hands out bags of groceries weekly at its food pantry that includes baby formula. 

Kelly Rappl, the program director for the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh, said they are feeding and clothing children for 1,300 to 1,400 families a month. 

“We have been fortunate that we have been a source in the area, and we have not run out,” Rappl said.

Food and drinks aren't easy to come by during a pandemic. Rappl runs the pantry solely on donations.

“It's very difficult when you go to a store because the shelves are empty or almost empty, so there’s no way for us to stock up by purchasing, even if we had wanted to or were in a position to do so,” Rappl said.

Rappl gave Spectrum News 1 a look inside their massive pantry. Everything from produce to cold milk is kept inside the facility. 

Sometimes the generosity of strangers won’t make it out of their warehouse because a can is beyond the use-by date

“It’s heartbreaking, but we have to be very careful because we don’t want to take any chances with any children because they don’t have strong immune systems,” Rappl said.

The head of pantry operations said while some community organizations may have shut down over the last two years their warehouse did not. Because of that, Rappl believes they collected donations that otherwise would have gone to other nonprofits.

She pointed to a stack of mostly canned formula. The rows of essential items could go a lot faster in the coming weeks.

“This will actually end up dwindled as those same agencies start to ramp back up to normal procedures and are able to accept donations again,” Rappl said as she placed her hand on top of one product.

She doesn’t want their supply to dip so low they cut back on what they can offer families.

The FDA announced Monday that a consent decree forcing Abbott, the nation’s baby formula manufacturer, to take corrective actions following an FDA inspection of its Sturgis, Michigan facility.

In a letter, the CEO of Abbott acknowledged the facility will hopefully reopen in the next two weeks. The site has been closed since February when a product recall was issued by the federal government due to a bacterial infection. 

However, it would likely still take six to eight weeks before those products are available on shelves.

At last check, Datasembly, a company that tracks hundreds of grocery and retail prices from businesses across the country, listed North Carolina as being almost 50% out-of-stock for formula.

President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act on Wednesday evening, which gives the leader of the free world power to tell private companies what to prioritize in production. The President also launched “Operation Fly Formula” to allow commercial airlines to pick up formula overseas and bring it back to the states.

Even with all these new measurements in place, the reality is that inflation, supply chain issues and massive recalls could add up over time. 

“All of that is a perfect storm, and we could possibly run out,” Rappl said.

Somehow it has not. At the end of a delivery Wednesday, a volunteer was able to find a formula for the mother of a child under a year old. Uncertainty can’t stop a well-oiled machine of goodwill, for now at least.

”We are fortunate now. We ask the community to come in and get some if they need it,” Rappl said.

In order to receive food, drinks and even receive children's clothing from the Catholic outreach food pantry, you must be referred by a local agency. A client is eligible to return to the Catholic Parish Outreach every 30 days with no referral needed. The pantry is open four days a week, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Currently the greatest need for children and maternity items are:

  • Diapers (5-6) & wipes

  • Infant formula (milk-based only)

  • Baby food (stages 1 & 3)

  • New/gently used sized newborn 6T clothing

  • Maternity Clothing

  • Baby shampoo, bath and baby lotion

  • Receiving blankets

  • Bibs and Rattles

  • Diaper bags

  • Potty seats

  • Strollers

  • High chairs

  • ExerSaucers

  • Pre-school children’s books 

  • Cribs (No drop sided cribs can be accepted)

  • No car seats can be accepted

Since the Catholic Parish Outreach largely depends on donations, there will be what is called a “baby shower” drive this weekend at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Raleigh. You can bring the items listed above Saturday and Sunday to St. Joseph’s.

There will also be another “baby shower” at St. Mary Magdalene Church on July 23 and 24, followed by another “baby shower” on August 13 and 14 at the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral.