Can college students get food stamps in California? Does getting CalFresh affect financial aid? How much can eligible California students get in food stamps? If you are asking any of these questions or have other questions about CalFresh for students, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we are going to explain in detail all you need to know about food stamps for college students in California, including eligibility, income limits, how to apply, and what you can expect once you submit an application.

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.

Who qualifies for CalFresh for College students?

Here are the eligibility requirements for CalFresh for students:

1. Meet Citizenship Requirements

To be eligible for CalFresh as a student, you must be a US Citizen or Permanent Legal Residence (PLR).

2. Fulfill at least ONE Student Requirement

If you are a student between the ages of 18 and 49, and are enrolled at least half-time, you must meet any one of the following criteria in order to be potentially eligible for CalFresh:

  • Working at least 20 hours per week and getting paid for it
  • Approved for some kinds of work-study programs
  • Participating in an on-the-job training program
  • Exerting parental control over a child under age 6
  • Exerting parental control over a child between age 6 and 12, and no childcare services are available
  • Receiving CalWORKS benefits
  • Exerting parental control over a child under age 12 and are a single parent attending school full time
  • Participating in the Educational Opportunity Program, College Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS), Cooperative Agencies Resources for Education (CARE) Program, UC McNair, Puente Project, or Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) Program

3. Meet CalFresh Student Income Eligibility

The income limit you must meet to qualify for CalFresh depends on your household size.

Unless you are living with a spouse or your kids, your household size is 1.

Below is the gross and net income limit for CalFresh eligibility for 2021/2022 based on household size.

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

Documents Needed to Apply

If you meet the eligibility requirement for CalFresh as a student, here’s what you’ll need to complete an application:

  • Proof of residence (lease, copy of bills with your name and address)
  • Federal Work-Study Eligibility Letter (you may need pay stubs depending on your caseworker)
  • Class Schedule
  • Other proof to satisfy requirements

Additionally, collect anything below that applies to you:

  • ID card
  • Birth certificates for children
  • LPR card (Lawful Permanent Resident)
  • US Passport
  • Social Security Card
  • Proof of income from last 30 days
  • Rent/Mortgage
  • Child care Bills
  • Court Ordered Child Support
  • Medical bills if elderly or disabled

How to Apply for CalFresh as a Student

Follow the steps below to apply for CalFresh as a student in California:

Step 1 – Create an Account and Apply Online

Apply for CalFresh online at: www.getcalfresh.org or BenefitsCal.com.

To create a BenefitsCal account, click here. If you already have an account, get help to login here.

Step 2 – Upload Your Documents

Here are the documents you will be required to upload:

Citizenship Verification

  • Passport
  • Birth Certificate
  • Green Card

Income Verification

  • Financial Award Letter
  • Work-study verification OR recent pay stubs

Student Verification

  • Class Schedule

Be sure to provide a good contact number and the best time(s) for a phone interview

Step 3 – Attend Phone Interview

The next step in the CalFresh application process is the interview. Your interview must be completed within 30 days of application.

Note that missing your interview will result in denial of your application.

Once you submit your application, you will receive a text/call to schedule an interview

  • Over the phone
  • In-person at the county CalFresh office
  • Special events are held a few times a year where county workers hold
    interviews in person on specific college campuses by appointment only.

During your CalFresh interview, be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • Verify your name, address, and SSN
  • How much do you pay in rent and utilities?
  • What bank do you use?
  • How much money is in your checking and savings?
  • Do you receive financial help from parents or another source?
  • Do you have loans outside of school?
  • Are you a full-time or part-time student?

The caseworker will also confirm what income is counted and what income is excluded in deciding CalFresh eligibility.

Step 4 – Wait for Decision on Application

Once you have completed the interview and submitted any required documents, the next step in the process is to wait for a decision on your application:

The county CDSS office will send you a letter in the mail within 30 days of submitting your application.

If you do not hear back in 30 days, call the county CalFresh office.

If you are approved for CalFresh, you will receive a Calfornia EBT Card.

Your EBT Benefits card will be mailed and PIN will be mailed separately.

Be sure to complete SAR 7 Eligibility Status Report Form to maintain your CalFresh benefits. Instructions for SAR 7 are found here.

If you are denied CalFresh, you can appeal the decision.

How do I keep my CalFresh Benefits?

CalFresh households must “recertify” their eligibility in order to keep continuously receiving CalFresh benefits.

To do this, they must complete a new application before the 15th of the month when their certification period will end.

The county CalFresh office will notify CalFresh recipients when their re-certification date is near.

The image below explains in detail the CalFresh application cycle, including when you are required to recertify.

FAQs about CalFresh for Students

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

Can you get CalFresh as a student?

Yes. As a student attending school half-time or more, in order to be eligible for CalFresh you must also work at least 20 hours a week, be approved for a state or federally funded work-study program, or have parental responsibility of a child under age six.

Does getting CalFresh affect financial aid or Taxes?

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

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 $250
2 $459
3 $658
4 $835
5 $992
6 $1,190
7 $1,316
8 $1,504
For each additional member over 8 +$188

What should I expect during the CalFresh Application Interview?

All CalFresh applicants will have to complete an interview when they submit a new application for benefits.

The interview can be completed in-person or over the phone.

During the interview, the county CalFresh eligibility worker will ask questions similar to those on the application.

The interview is to confirm what was reported on the application.

They may ask additional questions as well.

Can my CalFresh Application be Expedited?

It depends. For a CalFresh application to be expedited, the household must meet certain conditions.

If a household qualifies for Expedited Service, they can get their CalFresh Food benefits in three days or less.

For a household to be eligible for Expedited Service, they must meet one of the following:

  • Have less than $150 of gross monthly income and less than $100 of cash on hand or in their checking or savings accounts; or
  • Housing cost (rent/mortgage and utilities) are more than their monthly gross income and cash on hand or in checking or savings accounts; or
  • Migrant or seasonal farmworker with less than $100 in checking or savings and their income has stopped, or their income has started but they do not expect to get more than $25 in the next ten days.

Who counts as a member of my household?

A household is a person or group of people who buy and prepare food together.

Here are the household rules for CalFresh:

First, you may live with people who don’t count as an household member, such as a roommate, who purchases and prepares their own food.

Second, if you are under the age of 22 and live with biological, adoptive, or stepparent(s) you must apply for CalFresh together, even if you purchase and prepare your own food.

Third, if you are married, you and your spouse must apply as one household.

See our full list of CalFresh for students’ FAQs here.

CalFresh for SSI Recipients Summary

We hope this post on CalFresh for Students 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:

$3,000 Child Tax Credit from 2021 Stimulus
California P-EBT Extension
How much will I get in CalFresh
Does Costco Take EBT in California?
Extra Food Stamps for California
CalFresh for SSI/SSP Beneficiaries

Kwame Kuadey

Kwame Kuadey writes about personal finance and the social safety net. His career started in banking but he caught the entrepreneurial bug and has spent the last decade building successful businesses, including an Inc. 500 Company. Kwame believes everyone has the power to improve their quality of life by seeking knowledge and taking action. In 2012, Kwame founded Empower Media to help low-income households improve their financial situation. His expertise is in topics relevant to low-income households, including government benefits and assistance, banking products, access to credit, plus tools & resources to help reduce income volatility and build wealth. Kwame has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc. Magazine, Washington Post, ABC, and NPR.

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