How one mom is using Facebook to help hundreds of families find formula in South Florida
Katherine Quirk helped seniors find local vaccine appointments in 2021. When the formula shortage hit, she knew just how to help local families.
Nurse manager Katherine Quirk was following the news about the national baby formula shortage and growing more and more concerned. She saw stories of parents arriving at stores to find formula shelves empty. People with babies who have specific dietary restrictions unable to find the brand or formulation they need. Caregivers desperate to find formula to feed their babies. The U.S. formula shortage has grown into a full-blown, genuine crisis.
It’s been more than a decade since the mom of three fed babies of her own, but the magnitude of the problem hit her, both from the news and in Quirk’s personal circle.
“I’m in many local ‘mom’ Facebook groups and I saw post after post about the need for formula and the lack of availability,” Quirk tells Upworthy. She decided she wanted to do something to help.
In early 2021, Quirk and her husband had organized a Facebook group that helped thousands of senior citizens find COVID-19 vaccine appointments in the Parkland, Florida area, so she knew social media could be a powerful tool to crowdsource information and get it out to a community.
She searched for formula-finding groups on Facebook, but most were very large and she didn’t find any specific to her area. So she decided to start the South Florida Baby Formula Info Group on May 4, 2022, to help local parents and caregivers find formula locally.
“I wanted to provide a group, a kind of one-stop shop, where formula could be given to individuals who needed it, as well as providing information about local stores and online availability,” she says. “Facebook was the best choice as the group allows a consolidation of information as well as a platform to get information out quickly to the public.”
Quirk says the blueprint from their COVID-19 vaccine group had worked really well, so she basically just replicated it. The formula-finding group has now grown to more than 800 members who share specific formula needs and local resources. Quirk says the group has been a positive, helpful and resourceful tool during a time when families are experiencing enormous stress.
“The overall vibe is very positive,” she says. “Moms helping other moms. Caregivers lending a hand and offering up unused formula to a mom who has a need. Exchanges happening between parents if perhaps a sample was received that is not needed.”
She says community members will walk into a store and share a photo of baby formula availability to help the parents who can’t drive all over South Florida to find what they need.
People use the South Florida Baby Formula Info Group to help parents and caregivers find local formula supplies. Katherine Quirk/Facebook
“We have individuals in the group who are very skilled at checking online availability and alerting when baby formula becomes in stock online,” she says. The group also has people who “keep a protective eye on the community.”
Quirk says anyone can start a similar Facebook group for their local area, for formula-finding or any need that arises in a community.
“If you see a need in your community for it, start it,” she says. “When the community needs help, there is no better place than social media. Start a group, share it with those you know, ask your friends to share, share in other groups if it’s an option.”
“It takes some time and effort to monitor and grow a Facebook group,” says Quirk, but she manages it as a mom with a career. “If it helps even one person then it’s worth it,” she says.
“Look at your community, see where the need is and help in any way possible,” says Quirk. ”Keep things positive, keep politics out and focus on what’s important: your mission and goal.”
Here’s to people helping people in times of need, and to the tools and platforms that make such support possible.