CalFresh for College Students FAQs

If you are a student in California and are considering applying for CalFresh (SNAP or food stamps), we can help. In this post, we are going to explain in detail all you need to know about food stamps for college students in California, by answering the most frequently asked questions about CalFresh for College Students.

"CalFresh for College Students FAQs"

What is CalFresh?

CalFresh is a nutrition program that can help low-income individuals and families purchase healthy foods.

CalFresh provides monthly financial assistance on a debit-like card known as an EBT card. If approved, your benefits will automatically be added to your account each month.

The amount of benefits you can receive is dependent on your family size, countable income, and monthly expenses such as housing & utilities.

The EBT card can be used at most grocery stores, discount chains, farmer’s markets, and neighborhood stores.

Why should I apply for CalFresh?

Many college students are eligible for financial aid to assist with paying for college.

Consider CalFresh as your food aid to help you focus on school and stay healthy.

CalFresh benefits help increase food budgets, allowing individuals and families
to afford nutritious options including fruits, vegetables, organic foods, and more.

CalFresh for College Students

According to the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) on average, more than 127,000 California college students receive CalFresh each year.

Eligible students can receive up to $250 per month to purchase eligible foods at most grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and online, including on Amazon.

However, more students are eligible for CalFresh than apply.

It is estimated the number of college students who are eligible for CalFresh is between 416,000 and nearly 700,000.

Temporary Expansion of CalFresh Eligibility for Students

Eligibility to the CalFresh program has temporarily been expanded to include students attending school half-time or more that:

  • Are eligible to participate in state or federally financed work study during the regular school year, or
  • Are determined by California Student Aid Commission CSAC to have a zero dollar expected family contribution (EFC) for the current school year.

FAQs about CalFresh for Students

Here are the most frequently asked questions about CalFresh for students:

Can you get CalFresh as a student?

Yes. You are considered a student if you are:

1. Between the ages of 18-49 and are physically and mentally “fit” for employment. If you have a disability, you are not considered a student.

2. Enrolled at least half-time in regular curriculum at an “institution of higher education” in which the regular curriculum meets the standard requirements for graduation or certification in a particular field of study.

Note that half-time is determined by the institution in which you are enrolled.

Also, an institution of higher education is a business, trade, technical, or vocational school that usually requires a high school diploma or GED.

It also includes a junior, community, two-year or four-year college or university, or graduate school. It does not matter whether a high school diploma or GED is required.

To apply for CalFresh as a student, click here for our CalFresh for students guide.

Is there a maximum Income for CalFresh?

Yes, the CalFresh maximum income limit for CalFresh starts with a gross monthly income of $2,148 per month (2021/2022) for a household of 1 and increases from there.

The table below provides the complete CalFresh eligibility income limits by household size for 2021/2022.

CalFresh Income Eligibility Standards for Fiscal Year 2022
Effective October 1, 2021 – September 30, 2022
Household Size Gross Monthly Income (200% of FPL) Gross Monthly Income (130% of FPL) Net Monthly Income (100% of FPL)
1 $2,148 $1,396 $1,074
2 $2,904 $1,888 $1,452
3 $3,660 $2,379 $1,830
4 $4,418 $2,871 $2,209
5 $5,174 $3,363 $2,587
6 $5,930 $3,855 $2,965
7 $6,688 $4,347 $3,344
8 $7,444 $4,839 $3,722
​9 $8,202 ​$5,331 $4,101
​10 $8,960 ​$5,823 $4,480
Each additional member +$758 +$492 +$379

What is counted as Income for CalFresh Application?

The following will be counted as income when applying for CalFresh:

Earned income – which includes wages, self-employment (for example, driving for Lyft, delivering for Postmates, or owning your own business)

Unearned income: Social security (SSA, SSDI, SSI, SSP), military or veteran’s benefits, State Disability Insurance (SDI), spousal or child support, some stipends for former or current Foster Youth, unemployment insurance benefits.

Is there Income not Counted for CalFresh Application?

Yes, the following income is not counted to determine CalFresh eligibility:

  • Federal/state college work-study
  • Grants: Pell, Cal A or B, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), some private grants, etc.
  • Loans: Stafford/Perkins, deferred payment, etc.
  • Bills paid directly by parents (where the student never handles the money)
  • Personal loans that need to be paid back
  • Irregular or infrequent income – birthday money, occasional cash gifts

Does getting CalFresh affect financial aid?

No. CalFresh is not considered income, therefore getting CalFresh as a student does not affect your financial aid.

Will my Financial Aid affect how much I get in CalFresh Benefits?

No. Your financial Aid information is only used for CalFresh eligibility purposes, not for benefit allotment.

Can Graduate and Professional students get CalFresh?

Yes. Graduate students, similar to undergraduate students, must meet certain guidelines in order to qualify for CalFresh.

For graduate students, the group of students who are the most likely to qualify includes students:

  • Who have been approved for work-study
  • Who work 20 hours a week or an average of 80 hours a month
  • With dependents under the age of 12
  • Who receive services from Disabled Students’ Services (DSP)

All students must be within the income limits of CalFresh.

Below is a list of income that is excluded:

  • In-Kind Benefits – Any gain or benefit that is not in the form of money (i.e., meals, clothing, housing provided by the employer, etc.)
  • Vendor Payments – Money paid to a third party for a household expense by a person or organization outside of the household.
  • Deferred Educational Loans
  • Grants and Scholarships
  • Cash donations from a charitable organization of not more than $300 in a calendar quarter.
  • Income received too infrequently/irregularly to be reasonably anticipated but not more than $30 in a quarter.

Also, graduate students can and are encouraged to convert their loans into work-study to strengthen their CalFresh application.

Additionally, the Education Opportunity Program is in the process of expanding their sponsorship to eligible Graduate Students.

Are International or Undocumented Students eligible for CalFresh?

No. CalFresh is only available to US citizens and Legal Permanent Residents.

If you are an international student or an undocumented student and are in need of basic assistance, reach out to your university’s International Students & Programs Office or the Undocumented Student Services for more resources.

How much do students get from CalFresh?

The amount of CalFresh Food benefits a household receives is based on household size, income, and monthly expenses, such as housing, utilities, and medical costs.

Benefits amounts range from $20 – $250 per month.

See the table below for how much you are likely to get in CalFresh based on your household size.

To calculate the exact amount you are likely to get based on your household income, see our post on California SNAP Calculator.

Household Size Maximum SNAP Allotment
1 $20 – $250
2 $20 – $459
3 $20 – $658
4 $20 – $835
5 $20 – $992
6 $20 – $1,190
7 $20 – $1,316
8 $20 – $1,504
For each additional member over 8 +$188

I had CalFresh Before, can I apply again?

Yes. If I had CalFresh before but your benefits have been discontinued for any reason (including failure to submit a SAR7 application), here’s how to apply again.

If it’s been less than 30 days since your benefits were discontinued reach out to the county CalFresh office to try to rescind your discontinuance.

You may be able to reinstate your CalFresh benefits by submitting the documents that the county is asking for.

However, if it’s been over 30 days since your benefits were discontinued, you will have to apply for CalFresh again.

Can I use a P.O. Box to receive my EBT card?

Yes, as long as the P.O. Box address is within the county you are applying through.

When applying you can choose to receive mail at a different address than the one you are applying at; this would be where you enter your P.O. Box.

Should I apply to CalFresh with my family?

It depends. Students who are under 22 years of age and currently live at their family’s address will have to apply as a household with their family.

However, if you are over 22 and living at your family’s address, you are able to apply as an independent household.

Also, any student over the age of 18 who has an address apart from their family’s (such as an on campus address) is able to apply as an independent household.

Where can I use my CalFresh?

You can use your CalFresh benefits at most major grocery stores such as:

Trader Joe’s
Bear Market
Whole Foods

Also, you can use your CalFresh benefits to shop online for delivery or pickup, including on Amazon.

Additionally, you can even use CalFresh benefits at Farmer Markets! To find a farmers market near you that takes CalFresh, click here.

CalFresh for SSI Recipients Summary

We hope this post on CalFresh for College Students FAQs was helpful.

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

Also, be sure to check out our other articles about California SNAP and EBT, including:

Get the Complete Guide of EBT Discounts for 2024! $1,000+ Worth of Savings!