Market on board with Fresh Access Bucks program

NEW PORT RICHEY — Wright’s Natural Market is among the first retail outlets in Florida to participate in Feeding Florida’s Fresh Access Bucks program, an initiative that increases access to fresh produce for recipients in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Fresh Access Bucks makes healthy foods accessible to SNAP shoppers in communities through local food outlets, including farmers markets, community supported agriculture, farm stands, mobile markets, and now grocery stores.

At Wright’s Natural Market in New Port Richey, Fresh Access Bucks matches what a SNAP cardholder spends with free Fresh Access Bucks — up to $10 to spend on fresh vegetables and fruit, every time they shop. Fresh Access Bucks are available every day that the market is open and SNAP shoppers may double their benefits multiple times per day.

Wright's Natural Market is an independently and locally owned health food store at 5800 Main Street in downtown New Port Richey. Store owner Jeff Wright is excited to offer the program to his community. “Offering Fresh Access Bucks is another way to further our commitment to bringing healthy and affordable food to the

community,” said Wright.

Pasco County currently has more than 88,000 individuals on SNAP and a 13.1% rate of food insecurity.

Animal Services gets grant targeting cat overpopulation

Pasco County Animal Services has been awarded a $25,000 grant from Florida Animal Friend that will be used for trap, neuter, vaccinate and return efforts to reduce cat overpopulation in the Holiday area.

“This generous grant makes proactive programs like TNVR possible, allowing us to spay and neuter roughly 800 stray and feral cats,” said PCAS Director Mike Shumate. “PCAS is excited to assist our Holiday neighbors with their community cat needs, and grateful to Florida Animal Friend for their support in helping reduce pet overpopulation.”

Grant funding comes from sales and annual renewals of the Florida Animal Friend Spay and Neuter specialty license plate. This is the second grant PCAS has received from Florida Animal Friend. The first, awarded in 2017, was used for TNVR efforts in the Zephyrhills area.

Information on PCAS is available on Facebook, and the public can also see pets available for adoption at Petango.com.

Transit system, Volunteer Way looking to ‘Stuff the Bus’

NEW PORT RICHEY — Donors can make a difference for Pasco County families in need this Thanksgiving. Pasco County Public Transportation invites the community to help “Stuff the Bus” with a drive-thru food donation Saturday, Nov. 14 at The Volunteer Way in New Port Richey, 8061 Congress St.

The transit agency and The Volunteer Way are partnering on the food drive to collect donations of frozen turkeys, hams and non-perishable foods such as boxed stuffing, instant mashed potatoes and canned vegetables.  

Financial donations are also accepted online at TheVolunteerWay.org.

Meanwhile, The Volunteer Way has changed its food pantry hours. The pantry is now open from 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon Monday through Friday. Drive-thru pickup of food has been discontinued; all pickups take place inside the building. Masks will be required and only four people at a time will be allowed entry.

The Volunteer Way is a nonprofit volunteer organization that has been serving Pasco County’s homeless and low-income families for more than 20 years. Each month, with the help of hunger relief partners, the organization assists about 23,000 families with food and personal items.

Two Good Soles drive hauls in footwear

The community’s generosity, even during unprecedented times, is helping Pasco students in need put their best foot forward. Pasco County government and its constitutional offices helped collect more than 7,500 pairs of shoes and socks for kids in Pasco schools during the fifth annual Two Good Soles Shoes and Socks Drive.

A drive-thru donation event at Wendell Krinn Technical High School in New Port Richey was held Oct. 27. This year’s drive brought in 1,746 pairs of shoes and 5,773 pairs of socks. Since 2016, the Two Good Soles drive has collected 9,314 pairs of shoes and 30,510 pairs of socks, which social workers distribute to Pasco students.

“New shoes and socks can truly make a difference in a child’s life, and we’re grateful to be able to contribute,” said Assistant County Administrator for Public Services Cathy Pearson. “Our fifth annual Two Good Soles came during a year of tremendous need. We’re both humbled by and proud of the outpouring of generosity from our communities and team members.”

Water district provides grants to Pasco teachers

The Southwest Florida Water Management District has awarded $97,640.28 in grants to 43 educators within the district as part of the Splash! school grant program. The program provides up to $3,000 per school to enhance student knowledge of freshwater resources in grades K-12.

Splash! grants encourage hands-on student learning through STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities as well as engagement of the greater school community through awareness campaigns. Each school district allocates a portion of their annual youth education funding provided by the district to support the Splash! grants in their county. 

The district awarded grants to the following schools and teachers in Pasco County:

• Deer Park Elementary School — Jamie Thornton

• James Irvin Education Center — Jose Olmo

• Pasco eSchools — Shamsher Lamba

• Pinecrest Academy Wesley Chapel — Rachael Robinson

• River Ridge High School — Laine Smith

• Sunlake High School — Kathryn Bylsma/Michelle Hock

Grants are available for freshwater resources field studies, water-conserving garden projects, community or school awareness campaigns and on-site workshops. Last year’s Splash! grants brought water resources education to 5,478 students throughout the district. For more information, please visit the district’s website at WaterMatters.org/SchoolGrants.

Pasco County School Choice expos go virtual

LAND O’ LAKES — Pasco County Schools’ annual school choice expos are going all virtual this year, but the goal of informing families about the upcoming school choice application window and highlighting all the innovative program options will remain the same.

The west-side Virtual Pasco Pathways Expo is Nov. 16, from 5 to 8 p.m.

The east-side expo is Nov. 19, from 5 to 8 p.m.

The expos will feature informational sessions that cover the general application process. In addition, teachers will showcase their unique educational options like STEM and STEAM magnets, the Cambridge International Education Programme, International Baccalaureate, Career Pathways and more. Virtual attendees will also have the chance to learn about Wendell Krinn Technical High School, Pasco eSchool, and the soon to be opened Starkey Ranch K-8.

The school choice application window will run from Jan. 7 to Jan. 21 for all schools and grade levels.

For more information, or to register to attend either of the expos, parents should visit www.pasco.k12.fl.us/expo.