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What is the CalFresh program and How does It work?

What is the CalFresh program and How does It work

CalFresh is a California-based version of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It is a federal program that has a county-operated system in the state of California. It aims to provide monthly nutritional benefits to low-income individuals and households and financial assistance to communities in need.

As the primary food program in California, CalFresh provides a vital safety net in the fight against food scarcity and hunger. The benefits offered in the program are used to buy nutritious food items for a good diet. It helps to stretch food budgets, enabling eligible individuals and families to afford healthy food options like staples, fruits, and veggies.

The amount of CalFresh benefits is determined by the size of a household, monthly income, and expenses. All CalFresh recipients get their monthly benefits on an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. They can buy food from any market or retail store that accepts EBT cards.

Read along for more information on the CalFresh program and answers to some frequently asked questions about it.

Who can apply for CalFresh?

Who can apply for CalFresh?

CalFresh supports low-income households, particularly those with elderly, disabled, and young children. Students, SSI recipients, homeless people, low-wage or jobless individuals, and immigrants may also qualify.

The following groups of California residents fall under the CalFresh eligibility criteria:

  • Any Californian family or individual with a low or nonexistent income, including the homeless
  • Beneficiaries of Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • As part of their application for those services, CalWORKS or CAAP candidates can also apply for CalFresh.
  • Students enrolled in higher education who are eligible
  • Eligible immigrants and lawful permanent residents

You must be a California resident and fulfill one of the following criteria to be eligible for this benefit program:

  1. You have a bank balance of less than $2001 (savings and checking account combined).
  2. Your current bank balance is less than $3,001 (savings and checking account combined), and live with the following:
    – a person(s) who is 60 or older
    – a disabled person(s)

If you have a family member who is disabled or over the age of 60, then your eligibility is determined by your net income. You can check your CalFresh eligibility here.

How to apply for CalFresh

How to apply for CalFresh?

There are several ways to apply for the CalFresh benefit program:

  1. Online: You can apply online at GetCalFresh or BenefitsCal. You will be required to fill out the application and provide identification and proof of income during the procedure. You must present all supporting documentation within 30 days after filing your application. Additionally, you can submit supplemental documents to increase the amount of aid.
  2. Call: You can call the toll-free number 1-877-847-3663 for the state-wide CalFresh hotline. Applicants can input their zip codes to receive detailed information regarding the county application process. An operator accepts application requests during business hours. Currently, the hotline accepts calls in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Russian.
  3. Fax, mail, or in-person: You can request the application form by phone, fax, mail, or in-person by contacting your county office directly or downloading it online. You can use the same means to submit the completed form and the required paperwork. The CalFresh County Office Locator can assist you with locating the address, contact information, business hours, website, and directions to the office.

You will typically receive a letter confirming your application’s approval or denial within 30 days of submitting it.

What documents should I provide with my CalFresh application?

Your circumstances will determine which documents you must provide.
The following documents are necessary for CalFresh eligibility:

  • Proof of identity
  • Your Income proof
  • For non-citizens, proof of immigration status is required
  • Proof of student status for college students

Additional documents that could boost your CalFresh benefits include:

  • Living expenses proof
  • You must provide proof that you pay child support
  • Your proof of paying for child care or dependent care
  • Proof of medical expenses if you are 60 or older or disabled

You must provide all documentation within 30 days of applying. If you are unable to provide proof, the CalFresh county office would generally accept a written statement explaining your predicament, as long as it is signed and dated.

What is CalFresh IRT?

The amount of gross household income that disqualifies most households from receiving CalFresh benefits is known as the CalFresh IRT. The CalFresh IRT is determined by the size of the household that was present at the time of certification (first or recertification) or any time the makeup of the household changes.

If the monthly total of your household’s income exceeds your current income reporting threshold, you must file a report (IRT). Benefit Class. CalWORKs. CalFresh. A family’s size.

Your compensation before any deductions is considered to be your gross income. Find your gross income using a paystub that reflects your regular working hours. Usually, this sum will be higher than what you receive in compensation. Your IRT limit is determined by your household size if everyone in it is on your CalFresh case.

What is the difference between Food Stamps and CalFresh?

What is the difference between Food Stamps and CalFresh

People with low incomes can use CalFresh, formerly known as Food Stamps, to pay for food at most supermarkets. Benefits are delivered via an EBT card, which functions as a debit card. The USDA sponsors WIC and the nutrition program CalFresh in addition to providing free lunches in schools. CalWORKs, welfare, and CalFresh are not the same thing.

How long can you get CalFresh?

In contrast to the CalWORKs (TANF) program, where people typically cannot receive aid after hitting the limit, CalFresh does not have a time limit. Instead, benefits are only allowed for a set amount of time under the CalFresh program, after which eligibility must be reaffirmed.

The program will “certify” (i.e., approve) a household for a specific number of months once the CalFresh office determines that the home is eligible for CalFresh benefits.

A “certification period” is the period during which the household is authorized to receive CalFresh benefits. The length of a certification term ranges from one month to one year. It can be approved for up to two years if every member of the household qualifies as “elderly” or “disabled.” The certification term is 36 months for households with solely senior or disabled individuals and no other source of income.

To submit the annual recertification, CalFresh Households and CalWORKs assistance units must now disclose information regarding income received in the 30 days prior.

What do they ask in a CalFresh interview?

The purpose of the CalFresh interview is to assess whether a client is eligible for food stamps. It lasts only 10 to 15 minutes. In states that take part in the program, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) uses it.

The CalFresh interview has two objectives: One objective is to explain the program to the applicant, respond to any queries they may have, and inform them of their rights. The second objective is to gather more data to determine whether or not the home qualifies for aid.

During the interview, usually at the beginning, the interviewer will inquire as to the accuracy of the personal data you provided on your application. We will confirm your legal name, birth date, Social Security number, citizenship status, and place of residence.

How long does CalFresh take to approve after the interview?

It is simple and takes just ten minutes to apply. Visit GetCalFresh.org to fill out an application to start the process. You’ll receive a call from the county for a brief interview within a week.

The county typically has 30 days after you submit your application to decide if you will receive CalFresh (food stamps). You will be interviewed by the county throughout the 30 days. Either a phone interview or an in-person interview will be conducted.

Is it hard to get CalFresh?

Is it hard to get CalFresh

If you recently lost your work, you can most definitely apply for CalFresh. When determining how much CalFresh you will receive in the first month if your income has stopped, your county will only take into account any last payments you received in the past 30 days.

If you still make any money, your benefits will continue to be based only on that money and not money that has stopped. If you can, you should be able to show proof of any money you received in the last 30 days.

It’s not “hard” in the sense that you only need to fulfill a set of requirements. You receive an EBT card from SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, and it is not a grant.

What happens if you miss the CalFresh call?

What happens if you miss the CalFresh call

A household forfeits its eligibility to receive CalFresh benefits for the month in which the application was submitted if it causes the delay. If the reason for the delay is a failure to provide proof, the county may decide to either deny the application or “pend” it, delaying the processing of the application.

All homes that fail to submit proof will be subject to the county’s decision. The applicant cannot be forced to make an appointment or otherwise appear “in person” to submit documentation by the CalFresh office.

If the applicant failed to schedule a second interview date or failed to show up for the scheduled interview despite being informed by the CalFresh office that the appointment had been missed.

Why does my CalFresh say pending?

A new Notice of Denial or Pending Status, CF 377.1A, has been made available by the California Department of Social Services. Changes to the Notice include a requirement that each worker notifies the household that if they have filed for SSI and the application is approved, they may become categorically eligible.

The Notice must now contain the precise proofs that the county claims are lacking to deny an application or recertification. When the application is waiting due to missing verification, the Notice must additionally specify the precise pieces of verification the county claims are lacking.

The county must also send a separate refusal notice if it rejects the household after receiving full recertification. It is called the Notice of Denial or Pending Status. When the county receives the recertification application, the Notice of Denial or Pending Status suffices to prevent recertification.

CalFresh is for whom?

People with low income who meet federal income qualifying requirements and wish to increase their budget so they can put wholesome food on the table can apply for CalFresh.

How to reapply for calfresh?

One of the four primary things you must consistently do to maintain your CalFresh benefits if you are currently getting them, is to submit your CalFresh renewal application in a timely way.

The semi-annual report and the annual recertification are the two regular reports that CalFresh recipients must submit to maintain their benefits. Additionally, they must adhere to job restrictions and disclose any changes in income during the year.

The procedure for renewing your CalFresh benefits will then be explained to you in detail, along with any restrictions.

The steps you must follow to complete the CalFresh recertification procedure are shown below.

  1. Complete the Recertification Application form.
  2. Submit your Recertification Application form
  3. CDSS Acknowledgement and Interview Appointment.
  4. Attend Recertification Interview.
  5. Recertification Application Decision

Do CalFresh Benefits have a time limit?

No, CalFresh benefits do not have a time limit. Instead, they come with a fixed certification period after which your eligibility must be verified.

Following the application procedure, the county office will certify a household’s eligibility and grant it approval to receive CalFresh benefits for a period of time. This timespan is termed the ‘certification period’ and can range from a month to a year.

You must submit semi-annual reports on your household size, income, and expenses and apply for annual recertification to continue your CalFresh benefits. The only exceptions are households with no earned income and only elderly or disabled members, as they have a 36-month certification period.

What can you buy with CalFresh?

Essentially, CalFresh benefits are for any nutritious food or product meant for human consumption. You can use a CalFresh EBT card to buy all foods with a nutrition facts label.

These may include:

  • Food staples
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Milk and other dairy products
  • Meats, seafood, and poultry products
  • Bread and cereals
  • Non-alcoholic beverages and snacks
  • Plants and seeds for growing your own food

It is crucial to note that all CalFresh recipients are exempt from any state or local sales taxes on all purchases made with their benefits.

What can you not buy with CalFresh?

Here’s a list of items that are not eligible for CalFresh benefits:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Cigarettes and other tobacco products
  • Medicines, vitamins, and dietary supplements
  • Hot foods and prepared meals for immediate consumption(except in the case of restaurant meal programs and approved meal programs)
  • Pet foods
  • Non-food items like toiletries, household supplies, or cosmetics

What is an EBT card?

What is an EBT card

An Electronic Benefits Transfer or EBT card is a debit-like card used to redeem CalFresh benefits. EBT is used throughout California along with the other 49 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, and Guam. CalFresh benefits are issued monthly on these cards and can be used at any participating location. You can search for the EBT locations near you here.

A CalFresh recipient usually receives his EBT card in the mail within the week following his application approval. The card PIN may come in a separate envelope. EBT cardholders can buy food and other products in plenty of grocery stores, retail businesses, and farmers’ markets.

Where to use your CalFresh EBT card?

Some common locations that accept CalFresh EBT cards are:

  1. Markets and grocery shops: Most supermarkets, grocery stores, and other retail outlets across California accept CalFresh EBT cards. A few flea markets in the state accept EBT cards as well.
  2. Farmers’ markets: All CUESA-organized farmers’ markets and many more accept EBT cards. CalFresh recipients also avail special offers that allow them to buy farm-fresh produce at a discounted price. Visit the Famers’ Market Finder map to locate markets that take EBT cards.
  3. Restaurants: Elderly, homeless, or disabled people can use the EBT cards to buy prepared meals from registered restaurants under the CalFresh Restaurant Meals Program.
  4. E-commerce stores: You can use your EBT card to shop for groceries online. Home delivery via EBT is available at well-known e-commerce sites such as Amazon and Walmart. InstaCart and its participating stores also accept EBT payments for home deliveries. Albertsons, Vons, and Safeway take EBT cards for delivery and DriveUp & Go pickup orders.

For further details, visit the CDSS EBT Online page.

How to use the CalFresh EBT Card at a farmers’ market?

How to use the CalFresh EBT Card at a farmers' market?

Many low-income individuals and families can now buy locally grown and fresh food thanks to CalFresh. It simultaneously supports small farms by boosting sales at the farmers’ markets. You can redeem your CalFresh benefits by visiting the market’s information booth.

Tell the market staff how many benefits you wish to redeem and swipe your EBT card. Next, you can collect your CalFresh tokens or vouchers and use them at different market stalls.

You can use these tokens to buy any CalFresh-eligible food item at the farmers’ market.

In other farm outlets like CSAs and mobile markets, you can make direct purchases with your EBT cards. It is similar to shopping at a grocery store. Additionally, you can benefit from exclusive offers like Market Match with CalFresh.

What is Market Match, and how to use it?

Market Match is a nutrition incentive available at over 130 farmers’ markets throughout California. In 2009, Roots Of Change launched it as an initiative to help low-income shoppers afford farm-fresh fruits and vegetables by supporting local farms. Currently, the Market Match program is operated and managed by the Ecology Center.

When a shopper utilizes his EBT card benefits in participating markets, his purchasing power becomes twofold with Market Match discounts. However, he can only avail of these discounts to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.

You can pick up your Market Match tokens or vouchers from the information booth of the farmers’ market. Outlets that accept direct payments via EBT usually offer a 50% discount on fruits and vegetables.

What is the CalFresh Restaurant Meals Program?

Established in 1978, the CalFresh Restaurant Meals Program (RMP) assists those at risk of experiencing chronic hunger by enabling them to use their CalFresh benefits to buy prepared meals from authorized restaurants. San Francisco County in California was the first to introduce the RMP program in the early 2000s.

Initially, it began as a pilot program but has since been expanded into a state-wide initiative as of September 1, 2021.

CalFresh recipients eligible for RMP include:

  • adults at the age of 60 years or older
  • people with disabilities
  • the spouses of persons who fall under the above categories
  • homeless people

What is P-EBT?

P-EBT, or Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer, is a federal COVID-19 relief program. It provides food benefits to qualified families as well as reduced-price meals in schools and child cares. Children eligible for the P-EBT 3.0 include:

  1. Kids under the age of six who get CalFresh benefits between August 2021 and August 2022
  2. Students who get free or reduced-price meals at participating schools during the school year 2021-22 and have attended online classes via Independent Study or had five or more absences in a month

You do not need to apply for a P-EBT card. If a child meets the eligibility criteria above, a card will be automatically sent to them. Each child in a household will get their own card. The P-EBT card works exactly like the CalFresh EBT card and can be used to buy all CalFresh-eligible food items. All locations that accept CalFresh benefits will also take P-EBT.

Do you get extra CalFresh benefits due to the pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic has gravely affected the people’s livelihoods and increased food scarcity in the country. In California, thousands of families are struggling with food insecurity. Several additional food benefits were added to the CalFresh program to resolve this issue.

The maximum and minimum amount of your CalFresh benefits primarily depends on the size of your household. And the county office calculates the specific amount you will receive based on your income and expenditure. But, these regulations have been revised due to the pandemic.

Everyone will receive the maximum benefit possible for each household size. Your regular benefits will be deposited, as usual, followed by a second benefit deposit the next month. Another federal initiative, P-EBT, also offers food benefits to young children and students during the pandemic.

What is P-EBT


What is SAR 7?

A SAR 7 must be completed by every household receiving CalFresh payments, detailing their income, assets, and any changes to their household.

To continue receiving your CalWORKs, CalFresh, and/or General Assistance payments, you must submit the Semi-Annual Report (SAR 7). The SAR 7 is typically due on the fifth of the sixth month following the application or most recent annual renewal.

Your CalFresh benefits risk being terminated if the SAR 7 is not turned in by the deadline specified by the Social Services Agency.

First, six months after submitting your CalFresh application, you must complete and submit an Eligibility Status Update (SAR7). Next, you must complete and submit the Annual Re-certification Form 12 months after submitting your CalFresh application.

SAR 7 Checklist

It’s crucial that you accurately fill out the SAR 7 form. Your rewards may be delayed or even halted if your paperwork is submitted incompletely. The actions listed below must all be finished for your Sar 7 Report to be deemed finished:

1. You have responded to every YES/NO question
2. You have provided all the necessary information.
3. The form has all the necessary proof attached.
4. The form has the necessary signatures.
5. The form is signed and is postdated after the report month’s last day.

How to fill out SAR 7 forms for calfresh online?

You must submit the SAR 7 report once a year (six months after your application and yearly renewal) if you receive CalFresh, Medi-Cal, or CalWORKs. Your benefits could be changed, stopped, or delayed if you fail to submit a complete SAR 7 report. You might also receive an overpayment that you will be required to repay. This article will demonstrate how to complete the SAR 7 form for CalFresh.

How to fill out SAR 7 form for CalFresh?

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to complete the SAR 7 form for Medi-Cal, CalWORKs, and CalFresh.

STEP 1- Report Month.

Making sure you pay attention to Report Month is the first step. As indicated above, all earnings and modifications that took place during the Report Month must be recorded.

By the fifth day of the submit month, you must turn in your SA77 form.

However, if you don’t send in your SAR 7 form by the deadline, you risk one of the following:
Your benefits could be

  • Delayed
  • Changed
  • Stopped

Furthermore, failure to complete your form by the deadline may result in an overpayment that needs to be repaid.

STEP 2- Do you want to stop your benefits?

Then, if you wish the county to END any of the following advantages you are gaining, fill the area that will be displayed.

  • CalWORKs (Cash Aid)
  • CalFresh
  • Medi-Cal

But here’s what you need to know if you just selected some benefits to be halted but intend to keep receiving other perks.

The remainder of the SAR 7 report has to be written. For guidance on filling out the rest of the form, continue reading below.

STEP 3- Answer the 13 questions on the form.

Answering all 13 of the form’s questions, if necessary, is the third stage in completing the SAR 7 form. Keep in mind, that the SAR 7 form is considered incomplete if you fail to answer all the questions that apply to the benefits you are receiving.

Your benefits could be suspended, postponed, or revoked if you don’t respond to the pertinent questions. You will have all the knowledge needed to complete the SAR 7 form successfully once you have gone over the following questions.


I’m sure that this article has given you all the information you need to know about What is CalFresh. Now you are well aware of the program’s requirements and also how to apply for the same, I hope this article has helped you in some way. Share this article with everyone you know who needs this program if you know of any. I wish you a wonderful day today!

Leigh Buttrey

Leigh Buttrey

Leigh Buttrey is the SEO Editor on our team. She’s responsible for making sure our articles are optimized for search engines so that they can reach the widest audience possible.

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