Saratoga Springs

Saratoga Springs business to become county’s first milk drop-off location following successful fundraiser

Christine Hernandez with Griffin, 5, and Hudson, 2.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Christine Hernandez with Griffin, 5, and Hudson, 2.

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Christine Hernandez, 37, doesn’t currently use formula to feed either of her two young kids, but as a birth doula and the owner of Allo Saratoga, a play space and support center for kids and families, she knows plenty of parents who depend on it.

“I can imagine how scary it is to go to the store to find what they need to feed their kids and the shelves being empty,” Hernandez said.

So as Hernandez continued to hear news about the deepening formula shortage in the U.S., which has emerged following Abbott Nutrition’s voluntary recall initiated in February, Hernandez said she wanted to do whatever she could to help.

She reached out to The New York Milk Bank, which aims to help infants in need by providing them with safely pasteurized donor human milk when their mothers’ own milk is unavailable or insufficient, and discovered that Saratoga County doesn’t have an official milk donation site. In fact, the closest drop-off sites are at Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville and at a center in Cobleskill, according to the Milk Bank’s website.

So Hernandez asked what it would take to establish Allo, at 25 Lawrence St. in Saratoga Springs, as a donation center. It turned out she would need a 5-cubic-foot chest freezer and a National Institute of Standards and Technology-certified thermometer to ensure milk is stored at the proper temperature. The Milk Bank takes care of all of the regulatory paperwork.

At around 8 p.m. on Saturday night, Hernandez posted a request to Facebook asking for the community’s help to pay for the freezer and thermometer. By about 11 p.m., she said she had the $500 needed.

Now, sometime in July – following a roughly two-month regulation process – Allo will become an official milk drop-off location.

“People are mobilizing to help other people, and I think that’s really inspiring,” Hernandez said. “Now more than ever families need each other. The generosity was really cool to see.”

Nationwide, families remain concerned about the formula shortage, even as “manufacturers have ramped up production 30% to 50%, bringing total production today above pre-recall levels with a different mix of products and sizes now available in the market,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Families of about 5,000 infants as well as some older children and adults with rare metabolic diseases depend on 20 specialty formulas, for some of which Abbott is the only supplier, according to the White House.

To drop off breast milk at the Saratoga site, you’ll need to be an official approved donor. The New York Milk Bank helps to facilitate this process, which requires a screening phone call, lifestyle and history review, medical clearance, and a free blood test, according to the Milk Bank.

Meanwhile, while Allo awaits official approval to become a donation site, the center has partnered with Seedlings Baby Food to host a free diaper and formula exchange every Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., beginning May 22.

Addressing the formula shortage “proves that it takes a village,” Hernandez said. “We all have to work together.”

Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.

Categories: News, Saratoga County, Saratoga Springs

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