Baby formula crisis: Mum says she feels 'attacked' over 'jaw-dropping' prices

The magic formula - a disappearing act.

Simon thought he was watching a report about a foreign country, where baby formula was being rationed by charities.

They didn't have enough to give out to every family who needed it.

When he realised that the Sky News report he was watching last month was actually from Swindon, it stunned him and he decided to do something.

He immediately set up a crowdfund to "provide baby formula to desperate UK parents".

"The money started coming in very, very, very quickly because people, like me, they were seeing the video report," Simon told us.

"People thinking the same as me. How on earth can this be happening in this country?"

Within a few hours his online fundraising appeal was up and running, donations flooding in.

It quickly surpassed his initial target of £10,000 and within just a week or so it hit £50,000.

The fact that so many parents in the UK are struggling to feed their babies resonates. People wanted to help.

Simon is a dad-of-four from Essex who has a track record of online fundraising - he does it to help but to also rile the online trolls who happily take keyboard pot-shots at people who are struggling to make ends meet.

Now just a few weeks later, he's buying up as much formula as he can get his hands on and distributing tubs locally with the help of Zoey Smith, who can draw on years of experience in the charity sector to get the formula to the right places.

As the forklift loaded the last pallet of boxes onto the van, Zoey mapped out the morning ahead.

"People have been crying out for it and just been asking 'where can I get some milk from because I am really struggling'."

"I think the government needs to do whatever they can do to stop the cost of living crisis, prices going up and particularly look at things like this, the baby milk."

Simon has also partnered with infant nutrition charity FEED which are administering the bulk of the fund and inviting UK organisations that help families to apply for £250 microgrants for formula milk.

"It feels good, but you've got to look at the long-term picture," Simon explained.

"You know, I can't just sit here and raise 50 grand every time another foodbank pops up on Sky News saying, 'Oh, we can't give our families formula'.

"It needs proper long-term thinking in terms of the price of formula."

That's the problem at the heart of this crisis, some families just can't afford it.

Mums like 22-year-old Martina, who we met as the delivery van stopped at a foodbank in Southend where she lives.

'My jaw literally drops' over formula milk prices

Like so many other parents she now dreads the weekly trip to the supermarket because the prices keep rising.

"My jaw drops, my jaw literally drops," she tells us - her son is just two months old and fast asleep in the pram.

"It is expensive…very, very expensive. And I do think they're taking the mick out of it to be honest because it's ridiculous, especially for people that are struggling.

"It is exploiting us young parents. It does feel like you get attacked, if that makes sense?"

She looks down at her son who is having his nap, oblivious to it all.

"They can't say anything and someone's got to speak for them ain't they? I do wish it wasn't like that," Martina says as she loses herself in thought for a moment.

"Something needs to change because every child needs to be fed," she added.

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Each drop off through the morning follows a theme. Organisations that help young families have hardly any first infant formula left and are so grateful that their stocks have been boosted.

The shelves at the Storehouse foodbank in Southend are pretty bare inside - donations have slowed down and the number of families seeking help keeps growing.

'We've completely run out'

Veronica runs the baby essentials section and told us this week was the "first time in many, many months that we've completely run out".

She added: "But this will make just such a huge difference because people come in, they need to feed their babies, of course they do, and we haven't been able to give it to them. So this will make a huge difference.

"The trouble with the prices of the nappies, the wipes, the milk. It's just colossal."

She then puts the tubs of formula away into the lockable store cupboard.

It's a precious commodity.

We also stopped at the Megacentre in Rayleigh, where Scott Williamson helps run their operation including the foodbank.

He told us of the calls he'd had from families seeking help that morning.

"A lady just called half an hour ago, she has a newborn baby and she doesn't have nappies and she doesn't have milk. We will deliver it to her in her home later on.

"We are able to respond because of the generosity of the community, people like these great guys."

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At every stop, there's warm and heartfelt gratitude towards Zoey and Simon as they drop off the baby formula.

That kindness of strangers is now making a positive difference for some families but Simon, and everyone supporting his initiative, realise it's nowhere near enough.