The NEEEDS shelf at Wayside Food Programs.

An innovative program has been launched to distribute unused medical nutrition formula to patients in need.

Formula is used by patients who require feeding tubes, which may be needed by patients undergoing cancer treatment. After completing treatment, patients may have extra formula, which cannot be returned to distributors.

To provide this unused formula to patients in need, Wayside has become a formula pick-up center for patients and a drop-off center for donors in a partnership with Maine Medical Center Cancer Institute and New England Life Care.

Recognizing that there was no local option to redistribute unused formula to patients who are uninsured or underinsured, New England Enteral Exchange Distribution Solution (NEEEDS for short) was formed to achieve two goals:

• to prevent unused, unexpired formula from being thrown out;

• to aid patients who cannot afford formula.

“In the past it was very frustrating that there wasn’t a way to distribute the unused formula,” says Karen Schilling, an oncology dietitian at Maine Medical Center Cancer Institute, who helped launch the program. “NEEEDS is a great way to get the unused formula to people who need it but who can’t afford it for a number of reasons.”

Schilling, who is spreading the word to patients and peers, says that, under the program, health care providers will give patients a form that outlines their specific formula needs. This form is then brought to the warehouse, where Wayside provides the proper formula.

Schilling notes that while the volume of formula donated and provided may seem low, the impact on patients in need is great.

“People have been head over heels when they hear about the program,” she says, and she hopes the program can serve as a model for other communities.

To learn more about the NEEEDS program, contact Karen Schilling at (207) 396-8524 or via email at

To contact Wayside about the program, email Don Morrison at