BGSU alumna mobilizes parents in online 'Formula Hunters' group amid nationwide shortage

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – Amid a nationwide formula shortage, Christine Robinson, a Bowling Green State University alumna and mother of three, saw desperate and anxious parents being scammed, price-gouged or left frustrated after realizing the picture of baby formula someone posted online was in a store states away. 

“Nobody wants to be in that situation,” said Robinson, a 2007 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. “It’s one thing to not have the formula you need, but it’s another to know that it’s available and you can’t get it. That’s stressful and so heartbreaking.”

Leveraging her expertise in supply and demand from a nearly 15-year career in resource management, Robinson, from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, said she knew there had to be a way to circumvent the shortage issues, which were impacting regions of the country differently.

After some brainstorming, Robinson developed a simple formula-tracking database that, through Facebook, broadens a person’s search radius beyond their local grocery stores by mobilizing “formula hunters" across the country.

Members of the Facebook group, Formula Hunters, fill out a form with their name, child’s formula brand and how soon they’ll run out. The information is pulled into a database prioritized by need and viewable by the group, which has grown to more than 850 members since it launched in May.

The intent of Formula Hunters is for members to be on the “hunt” for any and all kinds of formula during routine trips to the store. They purchase what they can, identify who is next in line in the database and ship it to them for free.

“Imagine you’re a mom and you need formula so you’re calling stores, looking online and checking as many places as you can,” Robinson said. “It’s much more efficient to have hundreds of people in this group looking for your formula for you.”

The group is entirely donation-based to eliminate any possibility of price gouging or scams and relies solely on the kind-hearted nature of strangers. Since launching, more than 180 requests for formula have been fulfilled, oftentimes arriving with notes of encouragement.

Brie Sedberry, who lives in Waco, Texas, is among countless parents across the country who have struggled to find the kind of formula she needs for her son, 4-month-old Walker.

Not long after joining Formula Hunters, a fellow mother nearly 1,600 miles away in Philadelphia found the hypoallergenic formula she needed and mailed her two bottles.

“You’ll never know just how grateful I am,” Sedberry wrote on Facebook. “I drove 60 miles yesterday looking for my son’s formula and can’t find it. This helps so much.”

Robinson said she felt compelled to create the group out of necessity to solve a specific issue, but the unintended result of building a supportive community has been so much more rewarding.

“This has been so meaningful. This group has provided us with a sense of solidarity," Robinson said. "It’s so helpful to know that we’re not in this alone and that we’re going to solve it together. I love the community we’ve been able to cultivate.”

Updated: 06/28/2022 10:16AM