What is CalFresh?
CalFresh is a nutrition assistance program that helps low-income individuals and families buy the food they need. CalFresh dollars help stretch a tight food budget and help many people afford to incorporate healthy foods like fruits and vegetables into their diets.
CalFresh is the name of the USDA-funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the state of California. Recipients receive and “spend” CalFresh benefits electronically, via personal Golden State Advantage electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards that look just like any other credit or debit cards.
What is CalFresh Outreach?
The CalFresh Outreach Program is funded through the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) and is implemented in partnership with county social services offices. It assists people through the entire CalFresh application process, including assistance with the application itself, obtaining verification documents, navigating the 30-day application period, as well as the renewal process. Please note that county offices are receiving an unusually high volume of applications right now, so the application period is taking much longer than the usual 30 days.
Where do I go for Assistance?
Every CalFresh case is unique, and our CalFresh Outreach Advisors can help you through the entire CalFresh application process. Email us at CalFresh@sonoma.edu or make an appointment with a CalFresh advisor for more information. Appointments will be conducted via ZOOM. If you cannot participate in the video portion of the meeting, you can still participate over the phone. Please call or email us if you have any questions or concerns about virtual appointments.
Visit CalFresh Appointments to schedule a zoom meeting with a CalFresh advisor. If none of the available appointment times work for your schedule, please let us know by emailing us at email@example.com.
Learn about the requirements to qualify for CalFresh, a nutrition program that can help you buy healthy foods. For assistance, schedule an appointment with a CalFresh advisor: make an appointment with a CalFresh advisor or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Step 1: FIRST complete the CalFresh Intake Form and THEN schedule a meeting with a CalFresh Outreach Advisor. If you have any questions, contact us at CalFresh@sonoma.edu. (If you get a form that is not accepting responses, please try clearing your cache or try using a different web browser)
Step 2: The meeting with a CalFresh Outreach Advisor is to prescreen you to see if you are eligible for benefits. If it is determined that you are likely eligible, you can then complete and submit an application. The advisor can do this with you or you can apply on your own. The link to the online application will be shared with you during or after your meeting with an advisor.
Step 3: Once the application is received by the county, your 30-day application period begins. As mentioned earlier, due to the high number of applications being submitted right now, this application period could take up to 60 days or more.
Step 4: During this 30-60 day period, you will need to do the following:
- Complete your INTERVIEW with the county office by phone (your county office will either call or mail you a date and time for your interview). They will call from a blocked number. Please answer your phone because if you miss the call and have to call them back, the wait time can be up to two hours!
- Application Tip: If you are currently living at home with your parents and you are under the age of 22, but you plan to move out on your own in the near future, we recommend you wait to apply for CalFresh until you are out on your own. You cannot apply for benefits based on future living or income assumptions. You can only apply based on your current living situation. Please let us work with you if you are planning to move out of your parent's home anytime soon, especially if you plan to move to a different county.
- Let our CalFresh Outreach Advisor know if you have not heard from the county within the first 30 days.
Step 5: Submit verification documents. Your application will not be approved if you do not submit appropriate verification documents. Examples of verification documentation include: (these are just typical examples but you may need to be creative in how you provide verifications for these categories if your situation is atypical)
- Identification (one of the following): Copy of ID (Driver's License, State ID card, passport), school or work ID, birth certificate
- Piece of U.S. mail addressed to you at your home address. Proof of address such as a rental/lease agreement, current bill with your address listed, mortgage receipt.
- Rent or Mortgage Receipt (proof of living expenses) - rental/lease agreement, mortgage statement or self-written paper declaring your rent, signed and dated.
- Social Security Number for all members of the household who are applying for benefits
- Pay stubs/income verification - Earned income of all employed members in your household for past 30 days
- Unearned income verification - Unemployment benefits, SSI, Social Security, Veteran's benefits, alimony, child support, worker's compensation, school grants or loans, rental income, etc.
- Immigration and naturalization verification (unless you are applying only for U.S.-born children)
- Proof of Exemption:
- Cal Grant Acceptance (letter from California Student Aid Commission. You'll need to log into your CSAC account to retrieve this letter.) Sample CSAC Letter
- EOP, MESA, McNair Scholar, Seawolf Scholar verification (ask your program staff to provide)
- Work Study acceptance (from your SSU Financial Aid package)
- Class schedule
- You will also need to be under the threshold for Monthly Gross Income depending on the amount of members in your household
Please keep in mind that a "household" is comprised of those with whom you purchase and prepare food.
Step 6: In order to keep your CalFresh benefits, you will be required to do the following:
- Complete a Semiannual Report (called a SAR 7 Eligibility Report) 6 months after your initial application is approved. The County will let you know when this is due.
- Complete a Recertification Application and be interviewed before the end of your certification period. The County will let you know when your Recertification Application is due and will send you a letter confirming the time and date of your interview. Make sure you keep your mailing address updated with the county. Most interviews will be conducted over the phone.
Where can I use CalFresh benefits?
Local grocery and convenience stores, plus many farmers markets, accept CalFresh Cards for payment for food. Across the county, state or the U.S., look for a store, market or ATM that displays the Quest® logo.
Search online for all the places that accept CalFresh cards at the California EBT Client website.
CalFresh can be used to buy
- Fruits and vegetables
- Beans, fish, poultry, meat
- Rice, bread, tortillas, cereal
- Milk, cheese
- 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, medicine
- Hot foods or foods prepared in the store
CalFresh at Farmers Markets
Farmers markets in Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, Sebastopol, Rohnert Park and Cloverdale accept CalFresh Cards.
Some markets will match your CalFresh purchase amount dollar-for-dollar, for up to $10 or $20. The program is called Market Match.
You may want to see a list of Sonoma County Farmers Markets that accept CalFresh cards.
- Program descriptions can be downloaded at ACL 17-05.
- Application for CalFresh Benefits (CF 285) (Paper application)
- We encourage you to apply online with the assistance of one of our CalFresh Advisors. However you do have the option to submit a paper application instead.
- FAQs About CalFresh
- Myths and Facts About CalFresh
- CalFresh FAQs during COVID-19.
If you do not qualify for CalFresh, please visit our Food Resources webpage for information about other free food options.
This website was funded by USDA, SNAP, known in California as CalFresh, an equal opportunity provider and employer, and the California Department of Social Services.
How do I report a change in my CalFresh case?
Any client who wants to report a change to their case can do so by (1) calling the Economic Assistance Service Center at (877) 699-6868, (2) sending a written update through the MyBenefitsCalWIN portal, or by (3) dropping off the written update to their county CalFresh office drop boxes, (4) sending through the mail or (5) faxing. You cannot report changes until they have actually occurred (new baby is born and is home, you've moved into your new home in a new county, etc.).