Thank you to those who have contacted me about access to formula milk at foodbanks.
I understand concerns have been raised that some foodbanks are not collecting or distributing formula milk because of uncertainty around Unicef guidance. Babies are an incredibly vulnerable group in our population, and it is crucial that their health and wellbeing is protected and supported.
Unicef UK’s Baby Friendly Initiative has clarified its position, stating that “Whilst we recognise and admire the incredible work of foodbanks and community volunteers, unfortunately they cannot guarantee the consistent supply of infant formula that is vital for babies’ survival and health, and it should not be on their shoulders to do so.” It argues that the potential consequences are “too serious for families to have to rely on donations, which could be the wrong type of formula or not enough for their baby’s needs”.
Unicef believes it is the responsibility of local authorities and trained health specialists to meet these needs. It recommends that local authorities have a clear pathway for distributing infant formula as part of their emergency food provision system, and that foodbanks implement robust referral systems which their staff are trained to trigger if they are concerned that babies are in danger of not being fed.
I am aware that Unicef, in partnership with First Steps Nutrition and the National Infant Feeding Network, has produced updated guidance to local authorities on infant feeding during the coronavirus crisis.
I will follow any developments on this issue closely.