Curious about CalFresh? Here’s a starting place to learn all about the program, its requirements and benefits, and the many ways signing up for CalFresh can promote health and wellness for you and your loved ones.
What Is CalFresh?
CalFresh is a federal food assistance program that provides income-eligible individuals and families with a monthly stipend to buy food. Known nationally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), CalFresh helps millions of people in California afford nutritious groceries.
To qualify for CalFresh, you’ll need to satisfy certain eligibility requirements regarding citizenship status, income, work, and more. The application is simple and only takes about ten minutes. Generally, you can qualify for CalFresh if you…
- Receive CalWORKS or General Relief
- Have low-income or no income
- Have limited property
- Are a U.S. Citizen or a legal resident
- Are an immigrant that meets certain criteria
- Receive Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP)
The California Department of Social Services notes that CalFresh benefits are available to most lawfully-present immigrants who meet one of the following criteria:
- Have lived in the country (in a qualified status) for five (5) years, or
- Are receiving disability-related assistance or benefits, regardless of entry date, or
- Are children under 18 years of age who are qualified and lawfully-admitted for permanent residence under the Immigration and Nationalization Act.
Additionally, you do not have to have an address to qualify; putting your district address on the application is acceptable. And remember, even if you do not qualify for CalFresh, someone in your household might!
Once you have been approved to receive CalFresh benefits, you’ll get a monthly stipend for groceries each month, which will be loaded on an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card that works like a debit card. Your benefit amount is not a loan, and does not need to be paid back.
The specific amount you’ll receive each month depends on factors like household size, income, and expenses. Benefit amounts have also been increased recently as a result of the pandemic. The CalFresh program grows when there is more need and shrinks when there is less, so you won’t ever need to worry about taking benefits from others who might need it more.
You can use your EBT card to purchase food at any grocery store that accepts them, and you can even order groceries online via Amazon or your favorite online grocery retailer. Furthermore, CalFresh offers a Market Match benefit that doubles your CalFresh dollars up to $10-15 at farmers markets. Market Match is an excellent way to get more for your money, stock up on fresh and healthy foods, and support local farms!
For more details about using CalFresh—and other ways to support your food budget—check out our helpful guide on Funds for Food!
Why Sign Up for CalFresh?
Monthly benefits from CalFresh are great support for your budget and your health! In addition to bolstering your food budget, CalFresh has these added benefits for you and your loved ones.
Reduce Food Insecurity
Food insecurity is “the disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of lack of money and other resources.” People facing food insecurity may be at increased risk for negative health outcomes associated with poor nutrition, such as obesity. Food assistance programs like CalFresh have been shown to stave off food insecurity by providing resources for affordable and healthy food.
Improve Nutrition and Health
With the purchasing power to buy nutritious food and maintain a healthier diet, CalFresh benefits can make a big difference in health outcomes. Nutrition is an essential part of your overall health and wellness. The fresh fruits and vegetables available at your local farmers market through Market Match will be especially helpful in establishing a healthy diet that can positively impact multiple areas of your life.
CalFresh and other food assistance programs play a vital role in the reduction of poverty in the United States. On a national scale, analysis found that SNAP “lifted 1.9 million children out of deep poverty (defined as below 50 percent of the poverty line) in 2016, more than any other government assistance program.” Because programs like CalFresh can take the burden off of tight budgets, benefit recipients have more freedom to meet necessary expenses, save money, and invest in their futures.
Boost the Local Economy
When you spend your CalFresh benefits at local shops and farmers markets, you’re putting that money directly into the local economy. That spending has positive, cascading effects that lead to impressive benefits for the community. The USDA’s Economic Research Service found that “during a slowing economy, $1 billion in new SNAP benefits would lead to an increase of $1.54 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—54 percent above and beyond the new benefits.”
Improve Outcomes for Children
SNAP has been shown to increase both health and educational outcomes for children. In addition to making nutrition affordable and accessible, SNAP has been shown to “lead to improvements in reading and mathematics skills among elementary children, especially young girls, and increase the chances of graduating from high school.” CalFresh remains one of California’s biggest safety nets for children, and provides crucial support for early childhood.
For individuals and families alike, CalFresh can be an invaluable opportunity for improved food security, better health, and positive lifestyle outcomes. Apply in ten minutes today, learn more about CalFresh, or explore SLO Food Bank for more ways to support healthy eating and food access.
We at the SLO Food Bank believe that everyone has the right to nutritious food. We work with a network of community partners in San Luis Obispo to alleviate hunger and to build a stronger community. If you’re in the area, check out our Food Locator to find food sources near you, or support our cause through volunteer opportunities. With reliable access to wholesome food, we are all healthier, happier, and more productive members of our communities. Donate today to help us bring health and happiness to San Luis Obispo County!