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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf invests $1.7 million in Berks County baby formula manufacturer

Infant formula is stacked on a table during a baby formula drive to help with the shortage on Saturday in Houston.
David J. Phillip
Infant formula is stacked on a table during a baby formula drive to help with the shortage on Saturday in Houston.

As the U.S. faces a baby formula crisis that has caused some mothers to travel hours to feed their children, Pennsylvania lawmakers are investing in a new factory in Berks County to help fill the void.

Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday a $1.75 million investment in ByHeart, the first FDA-registered formula manufacturer to hit the nationwide market in 15 years.

“This is really something that I think we need to celebrate now. All of us know that no one solution is going to solve this problem. And ByHeart, as important as it is by itself, is not going to solve it. But every bit helps, and this really helps and in a very timely way,” he said at a press conference at the factory.

The Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant enabled ByHeart to complete sections of its new facility in Exeter Township.

“How we feed our babies is one of the first and most intimate decisions that we make as new parents. And it’s incredibly important. It helps to set the foundation for our baby’s future health,” said ByHeart Co-Founder and President Mia Funt.

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She added they want to use more organic milk from dairy farmers in the commonwealth.

“It is a first starting point that we have now launched infant formula manufacturing, so that now we can build that ecosystem of partners and create more demand opportunity for farmers locally,” she said.

Much of the milk used in the formula comes from neighboring states.

Isabella Torres, a Reading-area mother of a three-month-old, said the investment gives her hope.

“Mothers like me have been desperate to find formula — crossing state lines, posting on social media — to feed our children,” she said. “While I am still worried, I am also grateful and hopeful. Hopeful that investments in facilities like ByHeart will increase baby formula production so that parents like me don’t need to worry any longer.”

Democratic Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan, represents parts of Reading and Berks.

She says the federal government should make more investments to protect vital supplies.

“I learned that we need to do more to support federal grant resources for rural development programs, the very same type of program that helped to expand ByHeart’s footprint in our very own community,” she said

The state investment also will create 50 new jobs, Wolf said.

Read more from our partners, WITF.