Finding Formula: Caregiver stories and institutional relations of the North American infant formula shortage


Project Overview

The United Nations Sustainability Goals recognize infants as among those vulnerable to hunger setting a target to ensure their access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food by 2030. However, the North American infant formula shortage of early 2022 and onward, caused by just one plant closure, is food system crisis and a stark warning that the pathways to infant food security are increasingly tenuous.

Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight program, Finding Formula will focus on caregivers' experiences of the North American infant formula shortage, and the social and policy relations that shape them. This research aims to advances our understanding of infant food insecurity broadly, including recommendations for safeguards needed (both emergency and long-term) within a global food system prone to shocks, and cost-of-living crises affecting families' ability to feed their infants in North America, and beyond.

The specific objectives are to:

1) Collect cross-national survey data about access to infant formula and other indicators of infant food insecurity.

2) Collect digital diaries from Canadian and U.S. caregivers to learn about their coping strategies when facing the formula shortage.

3) Produce vignettes and story sharing videos that will then be shared on an interactive website.

4) Conduct interviews with institutional/ organizational actors in both countries centred around their experience/perspective of the formula shortage and their reactions to, and thoughts about, the caregiver vignettes and videos.

5) Use cross-national comparative research to inform potential emergency feeding pathways and long-term solutions to infant food insecurity in North America, and beyond.


This research is supported in part by funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.



Nixon, Geoff. "How the skyrocketing cost of baby formula is hurting families who can least afford it." CBC News. May 13, 2023.

Kennedy, Kaley. "Understanding the infant formula crisis." Spring. July 19, 2022.

Maclean's Staff. "How to solve the baby formula crisis in Canada." Maclean's. June 6, 2022.

Frank, Lesley. "Opinion: Infant formula shortages are symptoms of a much larger problem in Canada's food system." The Globe and Mail. May 24, 2022.

Onion, Rebecca. "The Alarming Saavy of Baby Formula Populism." Slate. May 20, 2022.