CalFresh FAQs

What is CalFresh?

CalFresh is a nutrition program that can help households buy healthy foods. In California, CalFresh used to be known as the Food Stamp Program. Nationally, the program is called SNAP. It is funded by the federal government. CalFresh benefits are issued on an EBT card that works like a debit card and can be used at most grocery stores and many farmers markets to purchase food.


Does it cost money to apply for CalFresh?

No. Applying for CalFresh is free and does not require a credit check.

Do I have to go into the CalFresh office to apply?

No. You can apply for and receive CalFresh benefits without ever going into the CalFresh office. You can apply online at, complete your interview over the phone, and have your EBT card mailed to you.

I’ve applied for unemployment but I haven’t received a response. Should I wait before I apply for CalFresh?

No. You can apply for CalFresh now. You can update your income with the county office once the unemployment office lets you know how much you’ll be receiving & when.

Will the extra $300 received for pandemic unemployment count as income for CalFresh?

No, the additional $300 in pandemic unemployment will not count as income for CalFresh.

I’ve applied. How can I check the status of my case?

Contact your local county office. Only your local county office can see information about your case and let you know what is going on.

It’s been more than two weeks since I applied and I haven’t heard anything. What should I do?

Contact your local county office. Only your local county office can see information about your case.

I missed a call from the county office, what should I do?

Contact your local county office. Let them know you missed their call and want to reschedule your CalFresh interview.

How can I submit documents to the county office after I submitted my application?

You can submit documents to the county office online here.

I can’t get the documents the county is asking me to submit. What should I do?

Let the county know. The county office can help you get the needed documents or tell you if there are other ways to verify the information. Sometimes, you can have someone else verify the information or submit a signed note instead.

How will I know if I’ve been approved or denied?

The county office will send you a letter in the mail within 30 days of your application. If you are approved you’ll receive your EBT card and a code to set up your PIN separately, in the mail.

I think the county made a mistake and I was incorrectly denied CalFresh, what should I do?

If you think the county made a mistake, you can fill out the form on the back of the denial notice to request an appeal. You can also appeal online here.

Can I get more CalFresh because I have medical expenses?

Sometimes, yes. If you have a disability or are 60 years or older you can deduct medical expenses to increase your CalFresh amount. Let your county know about your medical expenses. You might have to submit documentation of these expenses.


What if I own a car?

You can own a car and still qualify for CalFresh.

What if I have a job?

You can have a job and still qualify for CalFresh.

What if I own my home?

You can own the home you live in and still qualify for CalFresh.

What if I am homeless?

You can qualify for CalFresh even if you do not have a home, address, or place to cook. People without homes can often get benefits within three days.

Can I qualify if I do not have a family?

Individuals can qualify for CalFresh. You do not have to have children to qualify.

Can I get CalFresh if I am in the military?

If you meet the eligibility requirements you can qualify for CalFresh if you are in the military.


Can I get CalFresh if I’m in college?

You may be able to qualify, see the student section and read more about eligibility in the CalFresh Guide. Even if you do not qualify, others in your household may.

Adults 60+ and people with disabilities

Are the medical expenses of older adults and people with disabilities considered in determining eligibility?

Yes, there are special rules and deductions for older adults (60 years or older) and people with disabilities. Visit that section for more information.

Can people who receive SSI/SSP receive CalFresh?

As of June 1, 2019 people who receive SSI (Supplemental Security Income) are eligible for CalFresh in California. For more information, visit To apply, visit

EBT card

I received my card but never got my PIN. What should I do?

You can set up your PIN over the phone. Call the toll-free customer service telephone number at (877) 328-9677.

What if I forgot my PIN or want to change my PIN?

You can call the toll-free customer service telephone number at (877) 328-9677 to select another PIN over the telephone. When your PIN is changed, you will continue using your current EBT card; a new card will not be necessary.

I lost my EBT card. How do I get another one?

Call 1-877-328-9677 to report your EBT card lost or stolen.

How much will I get each month?

The amount of CalFresh you get depends on many things, including your household’s size, income, and costs. The average CalFresh household gets over $300 each month.

This chart shows the maximum benefit amounts at each household size. Due to the pandemic, everyone is currently receiving the maximum for their household size.

When will I receive my CalFresh benefits?

In all California counties, except Los Angeles, benefits are issued on the day of the month as the last digit on the card. See here for more information and the distribution schedule for Los Angeles.

How do I use my CalFresh benefits?

CalFresh benefits are issued on an EBT card that works like a debit card. You can use it at most grocery stores and many farmers markets.

Can I use my EBT card in other counties and states?

Yes, you can use your EBT card at any store that shows the “Quest® symbol.” If you do not see the Quest® symbol, look for a sign that displays EBT, SNAP, or Food Stamps. If you are unsure, ask the store manager. There are no rules against using your EBT card outside of California. However, you must live in California to be eligible to receive benefits from a California county.

Do I have to use all my benefits in the month I got them?

No, benefits roll-over from month to month. But, the county may deactivate your EBT card if you do not use it at all for 6 months. If this happened to you, call the county office to ask them to reactivate it. After 12 months of no use, the CalFresh benefits will go back to the government.

Can I have someone else help me shop by using my EBT card?

Yes, ask your county about setting up an "Authorized Representative". This person will get their own card and PIN and will have access to your entire benefit amount. It’s important to only authorize someone you trust because you would be responsible for any actions taken by your Authorized Representative.

Will I have to pay back the benefits?

You will not have to pay back any benefits you were eligible to receive. If there is a mistake and you receive more than you are eligible for, you will be responsible for paying that amount back.

If I get CalFresh, am I taking benefits away from other people?

Everyone who qualifies for CalFresh will get benefits. In California, there are about 4 million people who are eligible but not receiving CalFresh. For every $5 of CalFresh spent in a community, another $9 of local economic activity is generated. This helps support jobs and businesses in your community.

What other discounts can I get with an EBT card?

Check out discounts available to EBT card holders here.