Is CalFresh Food Stamps?

Is CalFresh Food Stamps and how different is it from SNAP benefits? We can help explain what the CalFresh program is about and how you can apply.

In this post, we will walk you through CalFresh and how it works.

In addition, we will explain the eligibility requirements and how to apply.

Also, we will explain how much money you can make and still get CalFresh by showing the Income limits.

Furthermore, we will provide a chart showing how much you will get in benefits if approved.

Finally, we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about CalFresh.

"California Food Stamps"

This post will cover:

  • What is CalFresh?
  • Who is Eligible for CalFresh Food Stamps?
  • What do I need to Apply for CalFresh?
  • How Much Can I Make and Still get CalFresh?
  • How Much in CalFresh Food Stamps will I Get?
  • Apply for CalFresh Benefits
  • CalFresh Food Stamps FAQs

What is CalFresh?

CalFresh is California’s version of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP and formerly known as Food Stamps.

The program assists low-income individuals and households to purchase nutritional food.

Eligibility for CalFresh, as well as the benefit amount, is based on your household’s size and income level.

A household can be one person, a group of people, a family, or any combination of people that buy and prepare food together.

Children living with their parents are considered part of the same household until age 22.

Furthermore, many legal non-citizens are eligible for CalFresh benefits.

Also, even if you can’t get CalFresh benefits for yourself, other members of your household may be eligible.

For most households, CalFresh benefits are only a part of their food budget.

They must spend some of their own cash, along with their CalFresh Benefits, in order to buy enough food for the month.

Individuals and families may be eligible to receive CalFresh benefits, whether or not they work, as long as they have low income.

Once approved for CalFresh, you will receive your benefits in the form of an Electronic Benefits (EBT) card, similar to a bank debit card.

What you can buy with CalFresh

Your CalFresh EBT Card can be used to buy bread, cereal, fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, dairy, and plants and seeds to grow food for your household to eat.

However, CalFresh benefits cannot be used to buy non-food items.

Non-food items not allowed include:

  • Pet food
  • Soap
  • Paper products
  • Household supplies
  • Grooming items
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Tobacco
  • Vitamins
  • Medicines
  • Food to eat in the store
  • Hot foods

Who is Eligible for CalFresh Food Stamps?

Here are the categories of people who live in the state of California that are eligible for CalFresh:

  • Any California household or individual (including homeless) with low or no income
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients
  • CalWORKS or CAAP applicants can apply for CalFresh as part of their application process for those services
  • Students of higher education who meet eligibility requirements
  • Legal permanent residents and qualified immigrants

What do I need to Apply for CalFresh?

To apply for CalFresh, you have to meet the following eligibility requirements:

Proof of Identity

Applicants must provide proof of their identity to show that they are the person they claim to be.

Social Security Numbers

Individuals, including children, applying for CalFresh benefits, must either provide a Social Security number or proof they have applied for a Social Security Number.


The applicant must live in the state of California and must apply in their county of residence.

Work Rules

If you are an able-bodied adult without dependents and are between the ages of 18 and 50, you must register for work or be working at least 20 hours per week or an average of 80 hours per month to receive CalFresh benefits.

Citizenship Status

U. S. citizens and many non-citizens are eligible for CalFresh.

Eligibility for Aged and Disabled Households

If you are age 60 or over, or you are receiving Social Security Disability or Medi-Cal due to a disability, you may be eligible with income over the regular limits if you pay very high rent and utilities and/or have medical expenses over $35 per month.

Asset Limits

Households without a member who is elderly or has a disability must have assets of $2,250 or less.

However, households with an elderly or has a disabled person must have assets of $3,500 or less.

Income and Deductions

To be eligible for CalFresh, your monthly gross income (before payroll deductions) must be the same or below the amount listed in the chart for your household size.

How Much Can I Make and Still get CalFresh Food Stamps?

Most households must have a total gross monthly income less than or equal to 200% of the federal poverty level, to be potentially eligible for CalFresh.

Number of People in Household Maximum Gross Income Allowed – 200% Federal Poverty Level Maximum Net Income Allowed – 100% Federal Poverty Level
1 $2,128 $1,064
2 $2,874 $1,437
3 $3,620 $1,810
4 $4,368 $2,184
5 $5,114 $2,557
6 $5,860 $2,930
7 $6,608 $3,304
8 $7,354 $3,677
Each Additional Member +748 +377

How Much in CalFresh will I Get?

If you are approved for food stamps in California, how much in benefits you get partly depends on the number of people in your household.

The table below shows you the maximum amount of benefits you may receive if you are approved, based on the number of people in your household.

Household Size CalFresh Maximum Monthly Allotment
1 $204
2 $374
3 $535
4 $680
5 $807
6 $696
7 $1,071
8 $1,224
Each Additional Member +153

How do I apply for CalFresh Benefits?

There are three ways you can apply for CalFresh benefits:

Option 1 – Online

You can apply online at as shown by the image below.

"How to apply for CalFresh Food Stamps"

Option 2 – By Mail or Phone

You can call your county Department of Social Services (CDSS) Office to apply by phone or have an application mailed to you.

To locate a CDSS office near you, click here.

You can complete the paper application and return it to your county CDSS office for processing.

Option 3 – In Person

Apply at your county Department of Social Services (CDSS) office.

To locate a CDSS office near you, click here.

After you submit an application, you will be contacted by an eligibility worker to complete the application process.

CalFresh Food Stamps FAQs

Here are the most frequently asked CalFresh questions.

How long does it take to get CalFresh?

All CalFresh applications are processed as soon as possible but no later than thirty (30) calendar days following the date the application was submitted.

Furthermore, the County food stamps office must notify you of their decision (whether you’ve been approved or not) no later than 30 calendar days from the date of your application.

What If I Need Food Assistance Now?

If you need food stamps benefits sooner, you may qualify for CalFresh Expedited Service.

You are eligible to CalFresh Expedited Service if:

  • Your household has less than $150.00 in monthly gross income and does not have assets over $100.00; or
  • Your household’s total monthly income and resources are less than the monthly rent or mortgage, and utilities; or
  • You are a migrant or seasonal farmworker and you do not have assets over $100.00.

Can Students in College Get CalFresh?

Students can get CalFresh if they meet two conditions:

First, you must be considered a student according to the definition for CalFresh purposes.

Second, If you are considered a student, you can get CalFresh if you meet at least one of the following exemptions:

  • Work at least 20 hours per week, on average;
  • You are approved for state or federal work-study money and have not refused any job assignments;
  • Are approved and awarded TANF funded Cal Grant A or Cal Grant B;
  • Are a full-time student who is a single parent to a child under 12;
  • A part-time student with a child age 6-11 without adequate child care;
  • Are receiving CalWORKs benefits;
  • Are enrolled in CalFresh employment and training or another job training program accepted by CalFresh; (see below for a list of these programs)
    Do not plan to register for the next school term.

What documents will I need to provide to Apply for CalFresh?

Here are the documents usually required to get CalFresh:

  • A copy of your ID
  • Proof of any income from the last 30 days
  • Proof of student status (for college students)

In addition, immigrants may also be asked to provide:

  • A copy of your green card
  • A copy of your most recent paperwork for a U Visa, T Visa, asylum, refugee or parolee status, or a Violence Against Women Act petition
  • Naturalized U.S. citizens may be asked to provide a copy of their U.S. passport or naturalization documents.

However, if you are applying only for other people in your household, you do not have to provide proof of your immigration status.

Furthermore, your CalFresh benefit amount may be increased if you can provide proof of:

  • Housing expenses
  • Child support paid
  • Child/dependent care paid
  • Medical expenses if you are 60+ or disabled

Does getting CalFresh hurt my immigration status or make me a public charge?

Many immigrants are exempt from the public charge rule, including nearly all immigrants who qualify for CalFresh.

The public charge rule does not apply to anyone who already has a green card, unless they leave the U.S. for more than six months.

Furthermore, the public charge rule also does not apply to anyone who has, or is applying for, one of the following:

  • U.S. citizenship
  • Green card holder applying for a renewal
  • Refugee status
  • Asylum
  • U or T Visa
  • Immigration relief through VAWA (Violence Against Women Act)
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
  • Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status

Also, getting CalFresh while you have or are applying for one of the above immigration statuses will NOT count against you later if you apply for a green card.

For more on CalFresh and public charge, see our post on CalFresh and Public Charge Rule.

If I am approved for CalFresh, how do I access my benefits?

Once you are approved for CalFresh, your benefits will be deposited each month on the due date through an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card.

The Calfornia EBT card works much like an ATM or debit card and can be used to buy groceries.

See our detailed post for California EBT Deposit Schedule here.

What should I do if my EBT card does not work?

There are several reasons why your EBT Card may not work. This includes:

    1. The card may not be active, or
    2. There are no remaining benefits on your card.

If your EBT card is not working, you may call 1-877-328-9677 for help.

Also, you can log on to the California EBT Client Website for help.

CalFresh Food Stamps Summary

We hope this post on CalFresh Food Stamps was helpful.

If you have further questions about CalFresh or California EBT Card, please let us know in the comments section below.

Be sure to check out our other articles about CalFresh and CalFresh EBT, including:
Restaurants that Take CalFresh in California
How to Apply for California P-EBT
California P-EBT Extension for 2020/2021
CalFresh Account Login Help
How much will I get in CalFresh in 2021?
CalFresh Customer Service Phone Number

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