This is the third post in our series of blog posts about the food stamp, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), in each of the 50 states. In this post we will cover the California SNAP program, which is now known as CalFresh. As with the other posts, we will go over the basics of CalFresh, the specifics of the program in California, how and where to apply for benefits, how CalFresh benefits are received, and of course how to search this site for stores that CalFresh can be used at.
The California Food Stamp program is run by the California Department of Social Services, or CDSS, with funding provided by the United States government. CalFresh, just like the SNAP programs in other states, is meant to provide monetary assistance to low-income families and individuals to be used to buy food. As with other states, the amount of assistance received each month depends on the number of people in your household, your household gross income, your household net income, and other factors such as disability. There are a couple general rules that are true in each state: the higher the income, the lower the benefits; the larger the household, the higher the benefits. CalFresh eligibility requirements are listed here. The CalFresh eligibility requirements are actually quite complex, so if you are not sure if you meet the criteria, you can call 1-877-847-3663 (FOOD) and get more information about the application process.
The application for CalFresh benefits can be found online, here. The form will ask you a series of questions that determine your eligibility. They will ask you about the people in your home, the money you get from a job or other places, your housing costs and a few other bills. The online application is in English and Spanish. You can also apply using a paper form, which you can find in English or a dozen other languages here; the paper form needs to be submitted to your County’s welfare department.
You must have an interview with your County’s department to discuss your application. Most interviews are done by phone, but it can be done in person at the County office or other place arranged with the County. If you have a disability, other arrangements can be made.
You will receive a card that allows you to receive electronically transmitted funds (commonly called EBT). These funds allow you to buy food products. CalFresh benefits are only for foods for human consumption or purchasing seeds and plants to grow food for household use. CalFresh Benefits cannot be used to purchase non-food items like pet food, paper products, household supplies, grooming items or cosmetics. You also cannot buy alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, vitamins, medicines, or any food that can be eaten in the store.
If you are looking to find places in California to use SNAP benefits, you came to the right place! Just type your zip code or address into the box in the upper right of this page and select “Food Stamp Retailers” from the dropdown - you will see all the stores that accept CalFresh, sorted by distance from you!