What You Can Buy With Your CalFresh Benefits

CalFresh, California’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), provides eligible individuals and families with financial assistance to purchase food. With the recent updates and expansions to the program, there are now even more ways to use your CalFresh benefits! Here’s a helpful guide exploring the many (and maybe unexpected) ways you can use your CalFresh benefits.

Market Match: Using CalFresh at Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ markets have become increasingly accessible to recipients of CalFresh. While not all farmers’ markets accept CalFresh, the number is growing. Click here for more information about participating farmers’ markets in San Luis Obispo County. Certain markets also participate in the Market Match program, which further incentivizes CalFresh users to shop at local farmers’ markets with $10-$20 in additional benefits.

Using CalFresh at farmers’ markets is not only beneficial for CalFresh participants who receive fresh and nutritious food, but also for local farmers and the broader community. Since 2017, CalFresh and Market Match have brought $618,000 into local economies in San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara County!

Amazon Pantry & Instacart Delivery

Online grocery shopping has become more prevalent since the pandemic, and can be a convenient and helpful way to shop for food. CalFresh has adapted to this trend. Beneficiaries can now use their EBT cards to purchase groceries online for home delivery from Amazon, Walmart, Instacart, and more.

While CalFresh does not cover delivery fees, keep in mind that different grocery delivery services may offer discounts, promotions, and more. For example, Amazon Pantry offers free shipping for orders over $35 — even if you’re not a Prime member (and if you’re not a member but would like to be, Amazon offers discounted Prime membership to CalFresh recipients). You can also use your CalFresh benefits toward online grocery orders for pick-up at participating Albertsons, Safeway, and Vons locations.

The Restaurant Meals Program

The Restaurant Meals Program is designed for households that may not have a place to store and cook food or those with disabilities that make meal preparation challenging. This program allows CalFresh beneficiaries to purchase prepared foods at participating restaurants using their EBT card. Participating restaurants must meet specific county requirements and be authorized to process CalFresh transactions. Find more details and information here.

Additional Items You Can Buy With Your CalFresh Benefits

Are you getting the most out of your CalFresh benefits? Remember that your benefits can be used to purchase items you might not have thought about. Eligible purchases include:

  • Seeds and plants: Beneficiaries can buy seeds and plants to grow food for personal or family consumption. This smart CalFresh usage allows you to cultivate your own fresh produce, ensuring a sustainable source of nutritious food while also promoting gardening skills and self-sufficiency.
  • Non-hot food items: Any food for human consumption, excluding hot food, is eligible. However, there are exceptions for authorized hot meal programs and approved restaurant meals programs.
  • Cooking ingredients: Essential cooking ingredients (like lard, vegetable oils, and pectin) and vegetable products used to flavor foods (such as corn husks, banana leaves, grape leaves, lotus leaves, and spices) are also eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits.
  • Water and ice: Although not labeled as food, water and ice are eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits as well.

It’s also important to note items that cannot be purchased with CalFresh benefits, such as tobacco products, pet food, alcohol, vitamins, supplements, energy drinks, non-food items like soap and toothpaste, and hot food intended for immediate consumption.

An Update on CalFresh Income Guidelines for 2023-2024

For quick reference, here are the updated income guidelines for CalFresh eligibility, applicable from October 1, 2023 to September 30, 2024. Based on your household size, your monthly income before taxes should fall within the guidelines below.

  • One-person household: gross monthly income of $2,430 or less
  • Two-person household: gross monthly income of $3,288 or less
  • Three-person household: gross monthly income of $4,144 or less
  • Four-person household: gross monthly income of $5,000 or less
  • Five-person household: gross monthly income of $5,858 or less
  • Six-person household: gross monthly income of $6,714 or less
  • Seven-person household: gross monthly income of $7,570 or less
  • Eight-person household: gross monthly income of $8,428 or less
  • +$858 gross monthly income for each additional household member

Please note that individuals over the age of 60 or those who are disabled do not have to meet the gross monthly income guidelines, only net income guidelines.

CalFresh continues to evolve and expand its offerings, making it easier for participants to access a variety of nutritious food options. Whether you’re shopping at a local farmers’ market, ordering groceries online, or dining out at a participating restaurant, CalFresh is there to support your nutritional needs — and so is the SLO Food Bank!

About the SLO Food Bank

We at the SLO Food Bank believe that everyone has the right to nutritious food. That’s why we work hard to ensure access to fresh food for everyone in our community. We structure our programs in a few different ways to make fresh produce more accessible and affordable for those who need it. We also promote food assistance programs like CalFresh, while also hosting food distributions in the most rural areas of our county, where a grocery store may be more than 50 miles away.

With our network of community partners in San Luis Obispo, we strive to alleviate hunger and to build a healthier 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 or donations, if you are able to give. 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!