SNAP FAQ: What Is California’s CalFresh and How Can You Apply For Benefits?

Mother and daughter shopping vegetables groceries store.
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The CalFresh Program is California’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and is the largest food program in the state. Benefits are issued monthly through an electronic benefit transfer card, also known as an EBT card, to low-income families and individuals who meet federal income eligibility rules. As of June 1, 2019, SSI (supplemental security income) and SSP (state supplemental program) recipients may also be eligible. CalFresh benefits can be used to purchase eligible food items in grocery stores and participating farmers markets.

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According to the California Department of Social Services, CalFresh is federally mandated but state-supervised and county-operated. The amount each household receives depends on household income and monthly expenses.

You can apply for CalFresh online (in as little as 10 minutes) through, which is a service delivered by Code for America. You’ll need to give as much information as possible and upload any required documents. After you submit your application, your county will contact you within a week or two for an eligibility interview. If approved, you’ll receive your EBT card within 10 days.

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You can also call the CalFresh Info Line at 1-877-847-3663, which is available in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Korean and Russian. For speech and/or hearing assistance, call 711 Relay. You can also apply at your local county CalFresh office. Interpretation services are available in a variety of languages.

Your CalFresh EBT card works like a credit or debit card and can be used to purchase eligible food items at participating locations. When paying, swipe your card at the point of sale terminal and enter your EBT PIN. If you’re also purchasing items not eligible for SNAP, you must pay for those separately with another form of payment.

If you have questions or problems with your CalFresh benefits, contact your county social services agency.

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Josephine Nesbit is a freelance writer specializing in real estate and personal finance. She grew up in New England but is now based out of Ohio where she attended The Ohio State University and lives with her two toddlers and fiancé. Her work has appeared in print and online publications such as Fox Business and Scotsman Guide.
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