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CalFresh Assistance

On October 23, 2010 the California Department of Social Services introduced CalFresh, an inspiring new brand, name and design for the California food assistance program. The goal of the program is to be a stepping stone to an improved quality of life for Californians, by helping the entire state have access to healthy and nutritious foods.


CalFresh is a program funded by the USDA to help improve health and nutrition of families with low incomes. CalFresh can stretch food dollars, allowing families and individuals to buy more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and other healthy foods.

Currently, 4.3 million Californians are enrolled in CalFresh. Unfortunately, there are over 3.2 million Californians that are income-eligible in our state and not utilizing the program according to the California Food Policy Advocates. Many people are currently experiencing food insecurity and hunger instead of participating in CalFresh. Furthermore, an additional $6.3 billion of economic activity each year would be generated in California if there were full participation in the program.


CalFresh is for all types of people that fit within the eligibility guidelines. CalFresh is not only for mothers or families with children. Fathers, single adults, people with disabilities and seniors are also eligible for CalFresh. If a parent is ineligible, he or she can apply on behalf of his or her children.

CalFresh is an entitlement program. This means that all who apply and qualify as eligible will receive benefits and will not “take someone else’s place.” The USDA sets aside funds for the program, and because there is currently under-utilization of the program, millions of dollars in benefits are being left unused.

Call 2-1-1 to be pre-screened for likely eligibility or use this online tool: Pre-Screening Tool.

For information on CalFresh and CalWORKs eligibility expansion for individuals with a drug felony conviction, click here.


CalFresh benefits are deposited monthly on an EBT card that works like a debit card with a PIN. You can check the balance online or over the phone. Benefits can be used almost anywhere food is sold, such as supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies, stores like Target and Costco, some ethnic markets, and some farmer’s markets.


The amount you receive depends on your income, expenses, and family size. Most households with CalFresh get about $200 each month.


2-1-1 San Diego/Imperial is leading the way in phone-based outreach and application assistance. This means that we are helping to connect people who might be eligible for the program in the easiest way possible. We can complete the entire CalFresh application over the phone and submit it to the County electronically on your behalf. We then help guide you in the next steps to send your necessary documentation directly to the County without having to physically go into the office. Our over-the-phone program is especially beneficial for those who are disabled, elderly, homebound or lack transportation or childcare and cannot go to the County office to apply during office hours.

Because benefits are administered by the County, only a County eligibility worker can make the final decision if the client qualifies for benefits, and will notify the client of your case status within 30 days.


You can apply in many ways:

  • Over the phone with 2-1-1. Click here to schedule an appointment.
  • Online through:  San Diego County – MyBenefits CalWIN     |        Imperial County – C4Yourself
  • In-person at a local Community Based Organization (CBO) or at your local County office (call 2-1-1 for locations for in-person assistance), or
  • If you live in San Diego County, 2-1-1 can mail you an application packet for you to complete on your own.

You can read more about the application process on the State of California’s website.


Visit the California Department of Social Service’s CalFresh website click here.

Schedule an appointment to apply over the phone with 2-1-1  click here.

Apply online click here.

The California Department of Social Services has available for download the following no-cost CalFresh Outreach materials:


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This webpage was funded by USDA SNAP, known in California as CalFresh, an equal-opportunity provider and employer, and the California Department of Social Services.

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