Texas restaurant owner and father-of-three Benji Arslanovski purchased baby formula from his supplier, then distributed all of it to families in need.
The United States is currently experiencing a severe shortage of baby formula. The shortage stems from a major recall of product over contamination concerns from Abbott Nutrition, a large formula manufacturer. Amid this supply gap, restaurant owner and father-of-three Benji Arslanovski decided to step in and see how he could help. He owns the restaurant Our Place in Mansfield, Texas, which is supplied by US Foods. After reaching out to the supplier, which also provides baby formula to hospitals and healthcare providers, Arslanovski was able to procure some of its formula supply and then handed out the products to families in need—all for free, CBS News reports.
Benji Arslanovski used his special access to the commercial food supply chain to get formula for hundreds of parents.https://t.co/Aq5gyCm73P— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) May 18, 2022
Arslanovski said in an interview with the news outlet, "I thought, maybe nobody has looked at that avenue, and they had not." The restaurant owner reached out to his restaurant's supplier and located approximately 56 cases of Gerber baby formula in stock at US Foods. Then, he checked if it would be OK to purchase all of it. After confirming that other retailers and healthcare centers were indeed not in need of the supply, Arslanovski placed the order and began giving away the stock of baby formula to families who needed the extra help.
"The message is, 'Help your neighbor,'" said Benji Arslanovski, who owns Our Place Restaurant in Texas. https://t.co/QH18m5ULg3— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) May 17, 2022
"I cleared it with US Foods and made sure they did not need it," he explained. "I did not want to make a healthcare facility suffer. Every day I would buy a little bit more, and eventually, I bought it all. The first six cases went so quick." He got the word out about his free supply of baby formula via his restaurant's Facebook page. The response was immediate. Arslanovski shared, "I said you do not need to eat here or be a customer. If you need some, come and get it because no baby should go without." Initially, he had thought about asking parents and other caregivers to pay for the product but quickly decided against it.
A Texas restaurant owner is giving away free cans of baby formula during the nationwide shortage.— NBC News NOW (@NBCNewsNow) May 20, 2022
Our Place restaurant owner Benji Arslanovski joined @WatchSavannah on #MorningNewsNow with more on why he's doing this.https://t.co/U4UZMHn7bF pic.twitter.com/m9HwG2ScB7
The restaurant owner stated, "I was originally going to charge the cost, but when the moms were so happy that they found some formula, I could not charge them." In just a week, he had managed to give away more than 300 cans—about $4,000 worth—of baby formula. According to Arslanovski, he plans to continue buying formula as long as his distributor can stock it. While he has closed a major supply gap, parents have called on the United States government to do more at the systemic and institutional levels. So far, Abbott has struck an agreement with the White House that will allow it to reopen the plant within two weeks, given approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Nonetheless, it could take months from when production restarts for enough formula to hit store shelves to meet the needs of families in the country.
Y’all tryna force people to have kids and have the nerve to have a formula shortage… make it make sense.— Keke Palmer (@KekePalmer) May 14, 2022