Double Up Food Bucks program at Cowtown Farmers Market enables SNAP recipients to stretch their food dollars

Looking for healthy, fresh-from-the-farm produce for the family table this summer? Cowtown Farmers Market is the place to shop, and now local families that are eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits can stretch their food dollars even further with the new Double Up Food Bucks initiative.

Area residents with a Lone Star Card can double their spending at the Cowtown Farmers Market. Participants can swipe their Lone Star Cards at the market information tent (Shine’s Farmstand) to buy SNAP tokens and receive a matching number of Double Up Food Bucks tokens. Tokens can then be used for SNAP-eligible items at the market; tokens don’t expire and can be used at the market any time.

Double Up Food Bucks is part of a national network that is working to increase healthy food access in partnership with farmers markets, farm stands, grocery stores and other retail locations. North Texas Healthy Communities and Blue Zones Project are funding the Double Up Food Bucks program in Tarrant County. While the program normally matches $1 for $1 up to $10 a day, matching will be offered on an unlimited basis at least through the summer in response to an increased need for food access related to COVID-19. North Texas Healthy Communities is the community outreach arm of Texas Health Resources that focuses on the delivery of community benefit through well-being improvement.

Access to fresh produce can drastically improve the overall health of a community. According to the Tarrant Area Food Bank, 22% of Tarrant County households have no vehicle and live more than a mile from a grocery store or supermarket. What’s more, Tarrant County Public Health reports that 66% of Tarrant County residents are overweight or obese, and 63% of Fort Worth adults suffer from a diet-related chronic disease, including diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

Cowtown Farmers Market is at 3821 Southwest Blvd., on the Benbrook Traffic Circle. The market, which features fruits, vegetables and products all locally-grown and produced, is open from 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday.

Cowtown Farmers Market is designated an outdoor grocery and is allowed to be open during COVID restrictions. Shoppers are asked to observe social distancing and remain home if they feel sick.

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While Gov. Greg Abbott has allowed pools to open, Fort Worth city pools won’t be following suit

While Gov. Greg Abbott is allowing pools to reopen throughout Texas, Fort Worth residents will have to wait to swim in city pools.

Under the state’s executive order, swimming pools can operate at 25% occupancy, but only if permitted by the local government. View guidance from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Fort Worth will not open its two pools and a spray ground for now. This is a developing situation and, with guidance from health professionals, the city-owned facilities could open later this summer.

Operators of swimming pools at apartment complexes and homeowner association complexes should review updated information.

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Hemphill Street project nearing completion

The transformation of Hemphill Street south of downtown is nearing completion. Curb and gutter construction, pedestrian crossings and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant curb ramps along the 4.4-stretch of Hemphill from West Boyce Avenue to West Vickery Boulevard are complete.

Paving is finished from Pennsylvania Avenue to West Boyce Street and paving from Vickery Boulevard to Pennsylvania Avenue will be completed in mid-May.

Once paving is complete, new pavement markings will be installed from West Vickery Boulevard to West Boyce Avenue. The new pavement marking plan will create one lane of traffic in each direction and include a center turn lane as well as on-street parking, bike lanes and bus stop access. This project follows the Complete Streets plan adopted by the city and creates a safer environment for all transit modes, including buses, vehicles, motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and other users.

These changes are expected to wrap up by the end of May.

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Library curbside service begins May 19

While Fort Worth Public Library facilities remain closed to the public, staff are preparing to offer curbside service at five locations starting Tuesday, May 19.

Curbside service will be available 10:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and noon- 5 p.m. Saturday at these locations:

  • East Regional Library, 6301 Bridge St.
  • Golden Triangle Branch Library, 4264 Golden Triangle Blvd.
  • Northwest Branch Library, 6228 Crystal Lake Drive.
  • Southwest Regional Library, 4001 Library Lane.
  • Summerglen Branch Library, 4205 Basswood Blvd.

“We are pleased to begin offering the curbside service as we evaluate the best ways to reopen our facilities in the future,” said Library Director Manya Shorr. “Our staff will be following the recommended safety protocols, wearing masks, practicing social distancing and avoiding direct contact with the public.”

Library buildings will remain closed to the public. The City of Fort Worth is working on a reopening plan for libraries, community centers and other buildings that are closed.

Library materials that have been on hold since the Library closed their doors to the public on March 13 will be available for customers to pick up starting on Tuesday, May 19. Existing holds will be transferred to the open location closest to the customer’s original home location. When items are available for pickup, customers will be notified via email and given instructions on next steps.

Return of materials will be accepted only at the five curbside-service locations. Items will be held for at least 72 hours before they are sorted, checked back in and available for others to check out.

Updates on curbside-service procedures will be shared online. Digital materials and resources are available at the Library’s website, social media channels and through the Libby app.

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PetSmart adoption centers reopen

On most days, dogs and cats at the Fort Worth Animal Shelter’s PetSmart Charities Adoption Centers would have the opportunity to strut their stuff – and their personalities – to potential owners. But that hasn’t happened over the last couple of months since the adoption centers closed due to COVID-19.

Beginning Friday, May 15, future pet owners can view adoptable pets again when the PetSmart Adoption Centers at Alliance and Hulen reopen. Amazing pets from the animal shelter will once again be in the spotlight.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Hours of operation will be 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays.
  • Adoption fees have been waived. All pets are spayed or neutered, micro-chipped and vaccinated.
  • Guests must wear facemasks for the safety of all.
  • To learn more, contact the city’s call center at 817-392-1234.

PetSmart Charities recently awarded the Fort Worth Animal Shelter a $18,780 grant as part of a national commitment to help shelters impacted by the coronavirus crisis. A total of $2 million has been awarded nationwide.

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Census participation crucial to disbursement of transportation, health funding

As North Texans remain mostly at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have an opportunity to help ensure data used for the next 10 years is accurate. The U.S. Census Bureau continues its once-a-decade count, and this year the questionnaire can be completed online.

While the pandemic has forced many changes, technology has helped people remain connected to friends, family and work colleagues. In the same way, it is more convenient than ever to respond to the census. North Texans are encouraged to complete the census online. Information can also be submitted by mail or over the phone.

The questions can be answered in about 10 minutes, and the process is safe and secure. Answers are important because they help determine how much federal funding Dallas-Fort Worth and other regions across Texas and the nation receive toward endeavors such as education, transportation and health care. Census results also inform congressional representation.

The Census Bureau expects to incorporate the most current guidance from health care authorities to ensure that staff members and the public remain safe and healthy.

Until then, North Texans can do their part in the comfort of their own homes to help make sure the data the Census Bureau will report accurately reflects what the growing region looks like. While adults will answer the questions, the whole family could benefit from the lessons of the process. This is also an opportunity for kids learning remotely to discover how easy it is to participate and how valuable the information is to policymakers.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area remains one of the fastest-growing regions in the nation, with a population of more than 7.5 million. The region typically adds more than 1 million new residents every 10 years. Its population in 2010 was more than 6.3 million, according to the Census Bureau.

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Virtual meeting to discuss safety improvements to Boat Club Road

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is proposing to improve FM 1220 (Boat Club Road) from Azle Avenue to West Bailey Boswell Road. TxDOT will conduct an online virtual public meeting on the proposed project.

The virtual public meeting presentation will be posted on the TxDOT website at 6 p.m. May 28. Submit comments by email by June 12.

The existing curb and gutter roadway consists of four 12-foot travel lanes with a 14-foot two-way continuous left-turn lane. The proposed project would enhance safety along FM 1220/Boat Club Road by constructing a raised center median in place of the two-way continuous left-turn lane for about 4.6 miles. There are no anticipated right-of-way impacts.

To learn more, contact Ngozi Lopez at 817-399-4300.

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Woodhaven residents enjoy a special breakfast delivery

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and for some Woodhaven residents their morning meal was brought to them in an especially meaningful way recently.

During this unprecedented time, there are many neighbors undergoing daily challenges, elevated stress and health issues generated by COVID-19. These challenges can lead to increased isolation and may escalate issues for homebound folks.

Fort Worth Police Officer Delerick “Del” McNeal, neighborhood patrol officer (NPO) for the Woodhaven area, recognized a need to check in on some of these residents. To make his check-in more impactful, he collaborated with the Waffle House off of East Loop 820 to deliver a full breakfast to 25 residents. He contacted the Woodhaven Neighborhood Association and nearby apartment complexes to determine which neighbors could use a friendly visit and meal.

The donated meals were delivered by McNeal and were well-received by all.

“It’s important to help others when we are able,” McNeal said. “I try to do my part.”

“I witnessed the delivery of meals to two of my aging neighbors who have encountered major health issues,” said Woodhaven Neighborhood Association President Clarita Porter. “They were quite surprised by this generous gesture and were all smiles and happy tears after.”

Porter offered “a round of applause for NPO McNeal and the Waffle House Manager, Michael, for sparking hope in our neighborhood.”

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Library staff’s phone calls provide personal touch for senior citizens

The phone calls may be unexpected, but more often than not, they make someone’s day.

Since mid-April, a handful of Fort Worth Public Library staff members have been working the phones, dialing the numbers of Library cardholders age 65 and older to see how they are doing. The project aims to provide personal service at a time when the libraries are temporarily closed.

“I love making people smile,” said Abigail Watts, a part-time customer service specialist at the Central Library. “I’ve talked to people who are having a hard time being secluded inside of their homes due to the virus. I can hear the sound of relief in their voices when they realize the Library staff is reaching out to them. They are very surprised and thankful that we care.”

The full-time staffers placing the calls make an average of 157 calls a day, working from a list of more than 9,500 names. Between April 15 and April 27, there were 2,598 calls made on the nine workdays. Of those, 1,054 calls were answered, lasting an estimated average of 18 minutes each. Staff members left 1,212 messages for patrons who did not answer their phones.

Staff members take notes on what they talk about and log how long the calls last. Many times, a call is as enjoyable for the staff member as it is for the recipient.

“A couple of days ago, I called Mrs. Charlotte Brooks. She started with the Fort Worth Library in 1967 as a page,” Watts said. “She retired in 1998 as a supervisor in Circulation. She worked under Mrs. Peace. She shared some laughable moments with me. I enjoyed her stories about her various assignments in the Fort Worth libraries.”

All Fort Worth Public Library facilities recently became age- and dementia-friendly after a review of each location and training for staff. While libraries are already meant to be welcome, open and friendly places for the public to visit, the designation brings an awareness that a little extra patience and intentional interaction goes a long way when needed.

The calling project demonstrates an attitude of doing what staff can to serve the public even while locations are temporarily closed.

“I have always been drawn to services for older people, and was very excited when asked to lead this project,” said Regional Manager Barbara Henderson. “After the first few days of staff making calls, it was apparent that this was a worthwhile endeavor. Reading the many positive stories and comments brighten my day.”

Overwhelmingly, Henderson said, customers appreciate the staff and are ready to visit the library again.

Later this month, limited curbside service is being planned to start at five Library locations. Stay tuned.

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fort Worth District announces phased reopening of recreation facilities, campsites

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Fort Worth District will begin a phased reopening of USACE recreation areas that were closed due to COVID-19.

The decision to reopen is specific to each recreation area and is based largely on the safety of staff and visitors. All visitors should contact the lake project office for specific site openings or view the latest facility status.

The Fort Worth District reopened day use areas beginning May 7. While day use areas will be open, playgrounds and group shelter areas will remain closed until further notice. Campsites will be available for reservations no later than June 1. Campground reservations must be made in advance.

Visitors should also note:

  • Many USACE-sponsored events, tournaments, volunteer activities and public meetings remain canceled until further notice.
  • Visitor centers and lake offices remain closed to the public until further notice.
  • Group shelters, pavilions, courts and playgrounds are not available until further notice.
  • Shoreline management activities including one-on-one contacts that require USACE personnel to make a site visit or inspection may proceed consistent with social distancing guidelines.
  • Restroom facilities are cleaned on a scheduled basis, but cannot be considered as sanitized with respect to COVID-19.

Visit the USACE Fort Worth District webpage for the latest information.

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