In today’s world, food insecurity is a pressing issue that affects millions of people around the globe. In the United States alone, over 37 million people struggle with hunger and not having access to nutritious meals. To combat this issue, there are various government assistance programs available, such as Calfresh.

What is Calfresh?

CalFresh, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, is California’s branch of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It is designed to assist low-income individuals and families in purchasing nutritious food, thereby improving their dietary quality and overall well-being.

The program is administered at the federal level by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and at the state level by the California Department of Social Services (CDSS). It is a vital tool in the fight against hunger and food insecurity in California.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for CalFresh benefits, an individual or household must meet certain requirements set by the USDA and CDSS. These criteria include:

  • Income Limits: Gross income must be at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, and net income must be at or below 100% after deductions.
  • Household Composition: Eligibility and benefit levels depend on how many people live and buy/prepare food together.
  • Resource Limits: Households may have up to $2,250 in countable resources (or $3,500 if a household member is elderly or disabled).
  • Work Requirements: Able-bodied adults without dependents must work or participate in a training program for at least 20 hours per week to receive benefits for more than three months in a 36-month period.
  • Residency: Applicants must be residents of California.
  • Citizenship: U.S. citizens and certain legal non-citizens are eligible.

How To Apply

There are multiple ways to apply for CalFresh benefits:

  • Online: Applicants can apply online through the website.
  • In-Person: Applications can be submitted at a local county Social Services Agency (SSA).
  • By Phone: Applicants can call their local Social Services Agency or the state hotline at 1-877-847-3663 to complete an application over the phone.
  • By Mail: Applicants can request a paper application from their local SSA and submit it by mail.

The application process typically takes 30 days, but emergency benefits may be available for households with no or very little income.

Benefits and Usage

Once approved, CalFresh benefits are provided through an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, similar to a debit card. The amount of benefits received depends on the household’s size, income, and expenses for things like rent/mortgage and utilities.

The EBT card can be used at participating grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and other food retailers to purchase eligible food items, including fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy products, and more. It cannot be used for non-food items like alcohol or tobacco.

Impact of Calfresh

CalFresh is more than a benefit for those who receive it; it’s an investment in the health and economic stability of communities.

By providing necessary resources for food, the program helps reduce poverty and supports local economies.

Grocery stores and farmers markets see increased spending, which can lead to job creation and more vibrant communities.

Additionally, studies have shown that access to food assistance programs like CalFresh can improve overall health and well-being, especially for children.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the income limit for CalFresh in California?

The income limit is 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) for gross income and 100% FPL for net income.

Is CalFresh the same as EBT?

No, CalFresh is the program, while EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) is the system used to deliver benefits.

Who is eligible for EBT in California?

Eligibility for EBT in California depends on meeting the criteria for programs like CalFresh or cash aid programs for low-income residents.

Does CalFresh check your income?

Yes, income verification is a key part of the eligibility determination for CalFresh.

How much money can you make and still get EBT in California?

This depends on your household size, but generally, your gross monthly income must be at or below 200% of the FPL.

How much money can I have in bank for CalFresh?

Most households do not have a resource limit, but households with elderly or disabled members can have up to $3,500 in resources.

Is CalFresh based on monthly or yearly income?

CalFresh eligibility is based on monthly income.

What income is excluded from CalFresh?

Income from certain sources like non-cash benefits (SNAP), educational scholarships, and loans may be excluded.

How does CalFresh determine how much you get?

Benefit amounts are determined based on household size, income, and allowable deductions like housing costs.

Does CalFresh ask for bank statements?

Yes, bank statements may be requested to verify assets and income.

Does CalFresh check with IRS?

CalFresh agencies may use data from the IRS to verify income and other eligibility factors.

Does CalFresh go to your house?

Home visits are not typical unless there are verification issues that cannot be resolved otherwise.

Does CalFresh check your assets?

Yes, asset checks may be part of the application process for households with elderly or disabled members.

What counts as assets for CalFresh?

Assets include bank accounts, stocks, bonds, and, in some cases, vehicles.

What can I not buy with CalFresh?

You cannot buy alcohol, tobacco, pet food, household items, hot foods, or any non-food items.

Does CalFresh affect Social Security?

No, receiving CalFresh benefits does not affect your Social Security benefits.

Do I have to report all income to CalFresh?

Yes, all income must be reported to accurately determine eligibility and benefit amounts.


CalFresh plays a crucial role in alleviating food insecurity among vulnerable populations in California. As the state continues to refine and enhance the program, it remains a vital component of social welfare, ensuring that no Californian goes hungry due to financial constraints.

By supporting CalFresh, the state not only aids its residents but also strengthens its communities economically and nutritionally.

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