Israeli humanitarian delivers 200 pounds of baby formula to Texas churches amid national shortage

Jonathan Feldstein (center) with Pabliana Franco of New Beginnings Church left and Genesis 123 Foundation board member Rev. Linda Chandler.
Jonathan Feldstein (center) with Pabliana Franco of New Beginnings Church left and Genesis 123 Foundation board member Rev. Linda Chandler. | Courtesy Jonathan Feldman/Genesis 123 Foundation

A New Jersey nonprofit is helping parents in the North Texas area weather a nationwide baby formula shortage with an international effort involving Christians and Orthodox Jews.

Jonathan Feldstein, an orthodox Jew and president of the Genesis 123 Foundation, told The Christian Post he launched an effort to deliver 200 pounds of baby formula to New Beginnings Church and First Melissa Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as the global supply chain crisis continues to roil distribution for products like baby formula.

"I still think of the U.S. as the land of abundance and, except for a gas crisis in the 70s, I cannot think of any time that there was ever a shortage of anything until now," Feldstein said. "There are lots of things people can live without, but baby formula is essential, nourishing babies whose mother's can't or don't choose to nurse, and before they can eat solid food."

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Feldstein — a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen who grew up in the U.S. — said he made it his mission to bring over as much formula from Israel as possible.

The result: 119 containers of formula totaling more than $2,200 in value.

At first, he planned on bringing a modest amount of formula back from Israel to the U.S., but he soon enlisted the help of a major Israeli grocery chain to increase the amount of product he could take to the U.S. with him.

"If I had the ability to bring more, I'd have done it," he added. "It's a blessing to be able to be a blessing to the families of the world, literally."

Data on baby formula availability in the U.S. showed out-of-stock numbers hitting as high as 43% for the week ending May 8, compared to up to 8% in 2021.

The shortage has prompted harsh criticism of the Biden administration from Republican lawmakers as supermarket shelves remain empty.

Initially, the shortage of baby formula last fall was due to supply chain bottlenecks resulting from the pandemic. In February, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shut down the Abbott Labs plant that produces around a quarter of all formula in the country due to contamination concerns. 

Feldstein said he reached out to pastor Trey Graham of First Melissa Church in Melissa, who is also a Genesis 123 Foundation advisory board member.

"The alarming shortage of baby formula in Texas offered Jonathan a chance to deliver formula to Texan parents who are facing this challenge," Graham told The Christian Post via email.

A Texas congresswoman launched a website in May to help parents find baby formula, allowing Dallas-area residents to post the addresses of stores with formula and which brands they have in stock.

Rep. Beth Van Duyne, R-Texas, said she started DFW Baby Formula in response to what she described as a lack of a proper response by the federal government, claiming the administration is "complacent with hungry children and desperate parents."

White House officials told Politico that incomplete data on the retail stocks slowed the response to the plant shutdown and the administration didn't anticipate the severity of the shortages. 

In the last month, the FDA has urged the importation of infant formula from six countries, a total estimated quantity the equivalent of 365 million eight-ounce bottles. According to an FDA update this week, some of these products have already made it to stores while others will appear in the coming weeks and months.  

Graham said he sees people helping on a grassroots level, but more can always be done.

"The shortage of baby formula is just one example of our troubling current economic situation, so I hope neighbors and congregations will develop processes to share ideas and meet needs," he said.

Graham said others can donate to the Genesis 123 Foundation "so that projects like these can happen."

Donated funds allow food, blankets, clothing, military supplies or baby formula to be provided to families or soldiers in need of support and encouragement, he added. The U.S.-based nonprofit's mission is to "build bridges between Jews and Christians with Israel in ways that are new, unique, and meaningful."

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