California CalFresh

Updated August 24, 2020

CalFresh, California’s version of SNAP, is an entitlement program that provides monthly benefits to low-income households to buy the food they need to maintain adequate nutritional levels.

The program issues monthly electronic benefits that can be used to buy food at most grocery stores and many farmers markets throughout California.

Eligibility and benefit levels vary based on household size, income and other factors. The average monthly CalFresh benefit is about $369 per household.

In order to qualify for CalFresh, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Live in California
  • Be a US Citizen or a lawful permanent resident
  • Show proof of identity
  • Meet certain income guidelines
  • Have less than $2,250 in resources

Everyone who gets CalFresh benefits are required to register for work and participate in CalFresh Employment and Training (E&T) program in order to maintain eligibility, unless otherwise exempt.

If you are a CalFresh recipient 18—49 years of age without a child, you must meet special work requirements or you’ll be subject to the three-month time limit.


  • Can you apply for CalFresh online?

    You can complete the CalFresh application at your local county office or online at California’s benefitsCAL — the online resource for every Californians to apply for benefits in their county of residence.

    After your application is filed, the county will review the application and conduct an interview to determine your eligibility.

  • How long does it take to get approved for CalFresh?

    In most cases, the county has up to 30 days to approve or deny your application. If you are eligible for expedited service, you’ll get your benefits within a few days, but no later than 7 days from application.

  • What can you buy with CalFresh benefits?

    CalFresh can be used to buy

    • Fruits and vegetables;
    • Beans, fish, poultry, meat;
    • Rice, bread, tortillas, cereal;
    • Milk and cheese; and
    • Seeds and plants that produce food.
      CalFresh cannot be used to buy

    • Alcohol, tobacco, cigarettes;
    • Non-food items (pet food, toilet paper, diapers, soap, etc.);
    • Vitamins and medicine;
    • Foods that will be eaten in the store; and
    • Hot foods (unless your county participates in the Restaurant Meals Program).

  • Do you have to pay back CalFresh?

    No. You will not have to pay back any benefits you were eligible to receive. Unless, there is a mistake and you receive more than you are eligible for, you will be responsible for paying that amount back.

CalFresh benefits are provided through an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, similar to a bank debit card or credit card, which can be used wherever EBT is accepted.

If you are eligible, an EBT account is set up for you, and every month your benefits will be deposited right into your account.