The Providers Guide To EBT In California:
food stamp (SNAP) eligibility.

Food stamp eligibility is complicated, and the rules change often. This page is a good starting point, but the best way to find out if you’re eligible for food stamps is to apply for them.

If you have a question that we haven’t answered here, let us know.

Updated: April 12, 2024
Do I qualify for CalFresh food benefits (food stamps)?

To figure out if you qualify for food stamps, California needs to know your:

  • Household size: How many people you live and buy/make food with.
  • Income: How much money your household makes. This includes both earned income (the money you make from jobs) and unearned income (disability payments like SSI/SSDI, social security, unemployment insurance, child support, etc.)
Who counts as a member of my household?

Anyone you live and buy/make food with counts a member of your household.

You may live with people who don’t count as household members, like roommates, tenants who are renting a room, or adult children (22+) who buy/make their own food.

Children under 22 living with parents always have to be included together in the household, even if the the person under 22 buys and prepares their own food.

Elderly (60+) and disabled people count as household members if you buy/make food for them, or you buy/make food together. If they live with you but buy/make food separately, they do not count as household members.

What's the income limit for CalFresh food benefits (food stamps)?

The income limits are complicated, because CalFresh looks at both gross income (money before taxes or expenses) and net income.

In California, the first test of eligibility is being under the gross income limit of 200% of the federal poverty level. If you make more than this per month, you are not eligible (unless you are senior or disabled.) These are the gross income (before taxes) income limits through September 2024:

Household size: income limit

- 1: $2,430

- 2: $3,288

- 3: $4,144

- 4: $5,000

- 5: $5,858

- 6: $6,714

- 7: $7,570

If you make less than that per month (before taxes are taken out) then you might be eligible and should consider applying.

Because it is complicated, the best way to determine whether you’re eligible is to apply. If you're not sure, start the application, and it will tell you if you are unlikely to be eligible.

Can I get CalFresh food benefits (food stamps) if I’m unemployed?

Yes, as long as you aren’t leaving a job or reducing your hours specifically so that you’ll qualify.

If you just lost your job, you can apply now and you may receive pro-rated benefits for the first month (when you still had income) and more benefits in future months (when you currently expect no income at the moment.)

Because unemployment benefits count as income for figuring out if you're eligible, it will depend on the size of your household and total income and expenses across everyone in your household.

Can I get CalFresh food benefits (food stamps) if I have a drug felony conviction?

Yes. If you’re eligible for food stamps, California won’t disqualify you because of a drug felony.

Can I get CalFresh food benefits (food stamps) if I’m not a citizen?

Eligibility related to immigration status can be complicated. If you're not sure but you need help, consider contacting your county agency or a local community group like a food bank.

This page from San Francisco's agency has a good overview on how immigration status affects eligibility. It says:

A household can get CalFresh if at least one person has:

- U.S. citizenship

- A green card

- Refugee status, asylum, or parolee status

- A U-Visa or T-Visa or is applying for one

- Applied for relief under VAWA (Violence Against Women Act)

- Proof of being a Cuban or Haitian entrant

An individual does not qualify for CalFresh if they are in the U.S.:

- On a student, work, or tourist visa

- Under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

- Under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) unless they meet the other qualifying factors

- As an undocumented person

And it notes that even if you are not eligible based on immigration status, you may be able to apply for other household members (like kids) who are eligible.

Can I get CalFresh food benefits (food stamps) if I’m a student?

You may be eligible for food stamps if you’re at least one of the following:

  • Enrolled less than half time.
  • Employed at least 20 hours/week.
  • Receiving federal or state work study financial aid.
  • Receiving cash assistance (TANF).
  • Enrolled in a program that doesn’t require a high school diploma.

GetCalFresh offers a student-specific application experience, which you can find here:

Can I get CalFresh food benefits (food stamps) if I’m homeless?

Yes. You do not need a mailing address or housing to apply for food stamps. If you’re currently living in a shelter that gives you free meals, you can still apply for food stamps. While homeless, you will also be able to use your food stamps at some restaurants.

Can I get more CalFresh food benefits (food stamps) if I’m pregnant or a new parent?

Once your child is born, your household size is bigger, which means you get a higher benefit amount if your income is still the same.

While you are pregnant, you can’t get more food stamps, but you can apply for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits.

WIC provides food and resources for pregnant women, new parents, and children up to 5 years old.

This page was written based on official government sources, and has been edited for simplicity.

We work hard to ensure this information is accurate, helpful, and up-to-date. We welcome any corrections or feedback here.