Food & Nutrition
California CalFresh Program
14 min read

In your state, the average household that includes an older adult gets


in SNAP benefits. You could get more or less depending on your income and household size.

CalFresh, known federally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and previously as Food Stamps, helps many older adults and young families in California pay for food. Available in every county throughout the state, if you're approved for CalFresh benefits, the government will issue your funds through an electronic benefits card (or EBT card).

Frequently asked questions

How does CalFresh work?

CalFresh helps people who are struggling to put food on their table. Once known as Food Stamps, this program allows many older adults, people with disabilities, and others to stretch their budget further. This is because the money they would have spent on food can now be spent on other important needs—such as utility bills, prescriptions, and medical bills.

If you are found eligible, your CalFresh benefits will be provided through an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card. This card works like a prepaid debit card and can be used at most grocery stores and even farmers markets to buy items like bread, nuts, rice, and more.

CalFresh is operated at the local level by county human services agencies. Each county office may have slightly different requirements and unique ways of managing its program.

What is the CalFresh application process like?

While you may think applying for CalFresh (California SNAP) is too complicated or time-consuming, it isn’t as difficult as you might expect.

Generally, here are the steps to apply for CalFresh so you can receive food assistance:

  1. Submit an application: Completing the application could take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes.
  2. Submit proof of your situation: You will be asked to provide documents that prove your identity and income, such as your ID, paystubs, or rent receipts. 
  3. Conduct your CalFresh interview: This is usually done over the phone, but a home visit may be offered in some cases. 
  4. Wait for a decision: Most CalFresh applications are processed within 30 days. If you are eligible for Expedited CalFresh, your application will be processed sooner.
  5. Receive your EBT card: If you’re approved for CalFresh benefits, you’ll receive an EBT card with money for groceries within 10 days of your approval notice.

How do I know if I'm eligible for CalFresh?

To qualify for CalFresh:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen or legally admitted non-citizen. Even if some members of your household are not eligible, those who are may be able to get benefits.
  • You must be a resident of the California county in which you are applying.
  • You must provide a Social Security number (or proof you have applied for a Social Security Number).
  • You must meet the requirements for a “household,” defined as people who live together and purchase food and prepare meals together.
  • You must meet certain income and asset limits. 
  • Most people age 18 to 50 must follow specific work rules to get benefits. 

The amount of money you will get in CalFresh benefits depends on:

  • How much you earn from your job or other income you receive, like Social Security
  • How many people live with you
  • Any assets you have (for example, cash in a bank account or property)

The following chart shows the maximum monthly income limits that most people or families can earn and still be eligible for CalFresh in California. These figures are effective for fiscal year 2024 (Oct. 1, 2023 – Sept. 30, 2024). You can use the site you’re currently on to check your eligibility—just click on the green button that says ‘See If You May Be Eligible.’

Family size Maximum monthly income in California
1 $1,215
2 $1,644
3 $2,072
4 $2,500
5 $2,929
For each additional person, add: $429
The asset (resource) rules in the CalFresh program are very different from many other states. If your household includes older adults or people with a disability, or your household income is under 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, there is no asset limit. This means almost no CalFresh applicants or recipients must meet an asset requirement to receive benefits.

What is Expedited CalFresh?

You may qualify for Expedited CalFresh benefits (within 3 days of applying) if:

  • Your household has less than $150 in gross monthly income and $100 or less in liquid resources (meaning money you can get right now, such as cash in a bank account).
  • Your household's monthly housing costs (rent/mortgage and utilities) are more than the sum of its liquid resources and gross income for the month.
  • You are a migrant or seasonal farm worker who meets other requirements. 

Need food today? Find your local California food bank.

What is Disaster CalFresh?

Disaster CalFresh (D-CalFresh), federally known as the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP), helps meet the temporary nutritional needs of disaster victims after a natural disaster such as a flood, fire, or earthquake.

If you are a new CalFresh applicant affected by a disaster, you must generally meet the household eligibility requirements listed below:

  • Your household must have lived in the disaster area at the time of the event.
  • Your household must plan on purchasing food during the disaster benefit period.
  • Your household must have experienced certain harmful or negative events, such as physical damage to your home or disaster-related expenses.
  • Your total household income must not exceed certain limits. 

You can learn more about D-CalFresh and apply for benefits at your local Calfresh county office.

How do I prepare to apply?

When applying for CalFresh, you’ll be asked for important information to help decide the amount of benefits you get each month. See below for documents you may need.

These documents are usually required to get CalFresh:

  • A copy of your ID (such as your driver’s license or government-issued ID)
  • Proof of any income (such as pay stubs, Social Security statements, pension statements)
  • Proof of immigration status (for non-citizens, such as your Permanent Resident Card or “Green Card”)
  • Proof of student status (for college students, such as a copy of your class registration)

These documents are optional, but may increase your benefit amount:

  • Proof of housing expenses (such as rent receipts, mortgage statements, utility bills)
  • Proof of child support paid (such as canceled checks or pay stubs)
  • Proof of child/dependent care paid (such as daycare receipts)
  • Proof of medical expenses if you are 60+ or have a disability (such as billing invoices or canceled checks)

How do I apply for CalFresh?

There are several ways to apply for CalFresh. Read below to learn more about which option might be right for you.

If you think you may be eligible for CalFresh, you can apply online at To start, you must create an account by clicking ‘Apply Now’ at the top of the home page. Creating an account will allow you to save your application progress and return to it at any time. According to the website, it can take people as little as 10 minutes. However, there’s no rush to finish so do take your time and complete as much of the application as you can. 

Apply Online

You do not have to upload documents right away to apply for CalFresh. The website will let you know what you need to provide, and you can come back and upload them later the secure document portal. However, submitting all of your documents with the application could help you get approved for benefits more quickly.

Once your application is received, a county caseworker will reach out to schedule an interview, which is required to apply for CalFresh.

Note: If you or the person you’re assisting does not speak English, there are two other options: Spanish and Chinese. For accessibility, ask about your hearing rights or for a legal aid referral by calling 1-800-952-5253. If you are hearing- or speech-impaired and use TDD, call 1-800-952-8349.


To apply for CalFresh in person, you will have to visit your county office and pick up a paper application. Find your nearest office by entering your county and ZIP code on the BenefitsCal website or by using this locator map.


You can also apply for CalFresh benefits by mail. Download an application using the links below, print it out, complete it, and mail it directly to your local county office.


If you don’t have internet access, call the CalFresh Benefits Helpline at 1-877-847-3663 for help applying. This helpline is available in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Russian. For speech and/or hearing assistance, dial 711.

How can I get help with my application?

There are multiple options available should you need help filling out your CalFresh application.

You can:

  • Reach out to your CalFresh county office. Find your nearest office by entering your county and ZIP code on the BenefitsCal website or by using this locator map
  • Chat live with a BenefitsCal representative from your county. 
  • Call the CalFresh Benefits Helpline at 1-877-847-3663. This helpline is available in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Russian. For speech and/or hearing assistance, dial 711.
NCOA also has a HelpLine that you can call to get free support. To get started today, call 1-855-534-1245.

What happens after I apply for CalFresh?

t can take up to 30 days for your local CalFresh office to process your application (response times vary based on the number of supporting documents). While they’re reviewing your paperwork, someone will call you to schedule an interview with a caseworker. This interview is typically done over the phone, but you can request an in-home visit if necessary. 

What can I expect during my CalFresh interview?

The goal of the CalFresh interview is to make sure your application is complete, correct, and ready for approval. Your caseworker can also tell you more about the program and answer any questions you have. You MUST complete the interview to receive CalFresh benefits.  

During your interview, you may have to answer questions like:

  • What is your full name and birthday?
  • What is your Social Security number?
  • Where do you live? (You can still qualify if you are houseless.)
  • Are you a U.S. citizen? (You may still qualify if you are a noncitizen.)
  • What is your monthly income?
  • Do you pay utilities, such as an electric bill or cable TV bill?
  • What other regular bills do you have?

It’s a good idea to practice answering these questions before your interview appointment. 

If you miss your interview, you will need to contact your caseworker to schedule a new appointment. Your CalFresh application could be denied if you do not complete an interview. If your application is denied for this reason, we recommend that you submit a new application.

Once your interview is complete and your CalFresh office has all the information it needs to make a decision, your application will be processed. Most applications are processed within 30 days. Your local CalFresh office will send you a Notice of Action regarding eligibility:

  • If you are approved for benefits, this notice will include your approved monthly benefit amount and how long you’ll receive benefits for (12, 24, or 36 months depending on your household; this is called your “certification period”). An EBT card will be mailed to you within 10 days along with a personal identification number (PIN). You will need this PIN to access your benefits. 
  • If your application is denied, the notice will explain why. If you don’t agree with this decision, you can request a State Hearing. The notice will include instructions on how to do this.

Other important tips and information when applying for CalFresh

How can I prepare for my CalFresh interview?
Use the list of SNAP interview questions above and practice responding to them several times. Imagine how it feels to answer with confidence. If you live with someone else, have them ask you these questions. If you live alone, try rehearsing your responses in front of a mirror. The more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll be during the real interview!
What other tips do you have when applying for CalFresh
  • Read all correspondence: You may receive several Notices of Action from your county office. Be sure to read each one carefully. 
  • Reply to correspondence quickly: Respond as soon as you can if your CalFresh office asks for more details or paperwork. Deadlines will be highlighted in these requests, so make sure you're timely. Fast and complete responses can help ensure your application moves forward smoothly without unnecessary delays.
  • Take action if you haven’t heard anything: If you’ve submitted your application and you haven’t received a call to schedule your interview within 7 days—or if 30 days pass without any update or notice about your application—contact your county office. Being proactive can make all the difference in receiving your benefits decision.
  • Be sure to renew your benefits on time: When your certification period is about to expire, your county office will send you a renewal notice explaining how to recertify for benefits. Make sure you return all required paperwork and information by the deadline on your notice to avoid any disruptions to your CalFresh benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

See What Key Benefits Programs You May Qualify For

BenefitsCheckUp can help you assess whether you can get help from programs before you apply. Answer questions anonymously to find out if you may be eligible for key benefits programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicare Savings Programs, Medicaid, Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy (LIS) - Extra Help, among others. 

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