CalFresh, sometimes referred to as California food stamps, is a food benefits program provided to low income individuals.

THE LATEST ON COVID-19 

Due to COVID-19, anywho one receives CalFresh benefits will get the maximum amount of benefits provided. Often the amount would be decided by your household size. The extra amount of money is sent as a second deposit during the following month and not on the same day that you get your regular monthly deposit. If you are searching for more information regarding these extra benefits, you can text 2-1-1.

Most CalFresh offices are closed, but you can still interview and speak to your local office over the phone.

If you need food urgently, you can visit your local food bank. Find your local food bank.

CalFresh California Food Stamps

The government provides financial benefits for people who struggle to pay for food, and this takes the form of a monthly deposit of money, often referred to as “food stamps” that can be used to buy specific items at various stores and markets. You can read more to find out if you are eligible for this benefit and how to apply, and if you want more general information you can read our introduction article about the CalFresh program.

Benefits

Your monthly allotment of funds (“food stamps”) doesn’t take the form of a stamp or check. Instead, you get an EBT card that is like a debit card that you can use at participating stores and markets. You can only buy certain items with the card, and it has to be at a location that accepts EBT cards. This is commonly marked by a sign on the door. You can also look up participating stores and markets online.

The store knows how to process your benefits, so you just need to pay attention to the list of items that you are given when you get approved for your benefits. This is a program to ensure your nutrition; it doesn’t get you a full grocery list, but it provides essential help in getting food items for meals.

The items that you can buy include things like:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meat, poultry, and fish
  • Rice, breads, and cereals
  • Dairy products like milk and cheese
  • Seeds and fully grown plants that produce fruits or vegetables

You can’t buy things like alcohol, tobacco, non-food items like house cleaning supplies, vitamins or medicine, or hot foods.

Qualifications

In order to get CalFresh benefits you need to be a California resident and meet some qualifications listed below. Primarily your eligibility will be determined by income.

Household size

Your household can be any size, even if you are just one person. However your household size determines the income limit that would affect your eligibility and your amount. Obviously, larger households receive a higher amount in benefits.

Income

The maximum amount of income you could receive is 200% of the federal poverty level. This would be calculated from your gross income — before taxes. If you pass this qualification, you’ll be considered on the basis of your net income (your income after taxes are taken out).

You can look up the income limits for your household size online.

More on income limits

If your income is over the limit, but you have less than $2,001 in your banking accounts or if you have less than $3001 in your banking accounts and are or share your household with someone who is over 60 years old or who has a disability, your household might still qualify for CalFresh.

Other factors

If you are a senior or there is a senior in your household, or you or someone in your household has a disability, your total income will be based on your net income, rather than your gross income.

If you are self employed or you are a victim of domestic violence you may also have an exception.

If your household is sanctioned or you live with a convicted felon, you might not be able to get approved for benefits.

You might be eligible for CalFresh benefits even if you aren’t a U.S. citizen. If you’re not a citizen but you are admitted for humanitarian reasons or for permanent residence, have lived in the country for 5 years or more, are receiving other government benefits, or have a child under the age of 18 that is legally admitted for permanent residence, your household may be considered for benefits if you meet the other qualifications.

Your household can still receive benefits even if not everyone in your household is eligible.

Again, the only way to truly know if you are eligible is to apply. Your local CalFresh office will determine these things and will get you your benefits if you are approved.

How to Apply for California Food Stamps

Visit getcalfresh.org and hit “Apply Now”. Then you will be asked to submit an application, along with proof of your financial situation.

Here are some of the documents you might need: 

  • A photo ID
  • Proof of your income
  • Proof of immigration or student status if it applies
  • Optional: Bills for housing expenses, child support or child/dependent care financial documents, medical bills for those who are over 60 years old

You will have an interview with a case worker, so if you can’t find some of these documents, they may be able to help you.

At the end of your application you will get to choose between a phone interview and an interview at a county office. Given the current situation, phone interviews will be your likely best option and some offices may not even be open for in-person visits.

If you select a phone interview, a county worker will call you within two weeks of your application, and they will either interview you on the phone or you will schedule another time for the interview. If you miss the call, they’ll send you an appointment time in the mail, so don’t worry. And if you miss that time, you can call to reschedule.

If you’re approved the county will send you your EBT card within 30 days.

If you’d like to start by reaching out directly to your local office, or you’d like to ask questions, you can find your office with the location tool online.
If you’d like to learn more about how to save money and take advantage of all the government benefits that are available to you at this point in time, visit EKS California.