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Fort Bragg teaching families steps to healthy eating

A healthy living program aimed at teaching Fort Bragg families to shop for and cook healthier foods is preparing for another round of events at the Army's largest installation.

On Friday, officials on Fort Bragg will lead tours of the South Post Commissary that will help more than 100 soldiers, retirees and military dependents learn to buy healthy food on a budget.

Volunteers will help teach participants how to read labels and how to identify which foods are best, said Renee Reichart, Cooking Matters Coordinator for Fort Bragg.

On April 23, Reichart said Cooking Matters will kick off a six-week course on Fort Bragg that will teach participants how to cook healthier food.

Registration for the course is online at cmatscommissary.eventbrite.com/.

The free events are part of the larger Healthy Base Initiative, a program that started on Fort Bragg in November.

Reichart, who works for the national nonprofit Share Our Strength, said the commissary tours are especially important for families on strict budgets.

She said the tours are a way to try to touch families at risk of childhood malnutrition and hunger.

While it may be surprising to some, Reichart said many military families are in danger of malnutrition.

"A lot of families in the military also qualify for WIC and SNAP benefits," Reichart said.

According to Defense officials, food stamp purchases at military commissaries have nearly tripled in recent years, with nearly $88 million worth of food stamps used nationwide in military commissaries in 2011. In 2012, $99 million of stamps were redeemed.

Families receiving those benefits often have to get creative to ensure healthy meals, Reichart said. The tours and course are designed to spur that creativity.

The organization hopes to reach even more Fort Bragg families, but does need help.

Reichart said she's looking for volunteers to help help giving cooking or nutrition tips to Fort Bragg families and needs some help for Friday's tours.

For information email rreichart@strength.org.

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