Brandy loaded bags of green apples into her cart at Central Pantry.

Last time she was at the grocery store, she said, apples were more than $4 a bag. While she knows her four kids, ages 9 to 17, like apples, the school bus driver has to be frugal with her paycheck.

Brandy has had a route with the Columbia school system's bus service for ten years. She loves her job-"I love all the little kids on my route," she says-but it is not a full-time job. She adds charter routes when possible, but the bus schedule makes it difficult to tack on a second part-time job.

Her 17-year-old son works at a restaurant to help out, but that also adds transportation costs to the family's monthly expenses. Since losing food stamp eligibility earlier this year, she said Central Pantry has been a great resource to ensure that her children get healthy food - and a few treats as well. During her recent trip to the pantry, Brandy grabbed a couple of bags of fruit-flavored gummy snacks, explaining that she never spends money on that sort of product at the store.

"This helps out a lot, providing the extras we can't afford or wouldn't otherwise buy," she says. "My kids get sick of rice, so it's nice to get new stuff here."