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CalFresh Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)

Click on one of the following categories below or scroll down the page to see questions. If your questions are not answered here or if you would like clarification, email us at

General Questions

Eligibility Questions

Application Process Questions

SAR7 Related Questions

General Questions

What is CalFresh?

  • CalFresh is the name of the USDA-funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the state of California. It is a nutrition assistance program that helps low-income individuals and families buy the food they need.

What are CalFresh benefits?

  • CalFresh issues electronic benefits as a monthly stipend given via a personal Golden State Advantage electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card that looks just like any other debit or credit card. You can use this card at any EBT accepted location to purchase fresh and nutritious food.

What can I buy with my CalFresh Benefits?

  • You can buy most foods with your CalFresh benefits. You can also buy plants and seeds to grow food. You will not be charged sales tax on items you buy with CalFresh.
  • You CAN NOT buy: pet food, vitamins and medicines, alcohol, fast food, hot foods, and tobacco.

Will receiving CalFresh benefits affect my financial aid?

  • No, CalFresh benefits do not count as income and therefore will not affect your financial aid.

If I do not live in Merced county can I apply for CalFresh benefits here?

  • You must have an address in Merced County to be eligible to apply for CalFresh benefits in Merced. If you do not reside in Merced County, you cannot apply for CalFresh benefits through Merced County, however, you can still apply for benefits in the county you reside in.

I receive CalFresh benefits through Merced County, can I only use the benefits in Merced County?

  • You may use your CalFresh benefits in any state. Note: If you move out of the state or county you will have to notify the county office where you have relocated to transfer you benefits and update your address.

Can I apply for CalFresh on-campus?

  • COVID-19 Update: We have relocated to remote operations. If you would like assistance applying for CalFresh, you can sign up for a zoom appointment with one of our student staff. Click here to sign up.

Where do I turn in my verification forms/documents?

  • COVID-19 Update: All documents must be turned in through mail or dropped off at the county's drop box during this time. Please mail or drop off your documents to the Merced County Human Services Agency located at 2115 Wardrobe Ave, Merced, CA 95341. The Human Services Agency office will only be opening their lobby to the following: individuals who need to pick up an EBT card, pick up a temporary Medi-Cal card or pick up documents left by their case worker.


Am I considered a student?

  • You are considered a student if you are between 18-49 years old and enrolled at least part time in an institution of higher learning. (UC Merced considers part time as 6 units for undergraduates)  

I am a student, how do I know if I’m eligible for CalFresh?

I am under 18. Can I still apply for benefits?

  • You must be between the ages of 18 - 49 when applying. All the information that you input must be correct as of that day. We recommend that you wait until you meet the criteria (turn 18, move into an off-campus residence, etc.) before you start your application.

Can I qualify for CalFresh benefits if I do not have a job?

  • Yes, you may qualify for CalFresh if you are unemployed.

What qualifies as off-campus housing?

  • Off-Campus housing can be any of the following:
    • Off-campus house
    • Off-campus apartment
    • “Heritage” Apartment (6 meal swipes or less)

I’m eligible for and have been awarded Federal Work-Study for the academic year, but I don’t have a Federal Work-Study job. Am I still eligible?

  • Yes, as long as you have federal work-study listed on your financial aid package and have accepted it for the current academic year, you are eligible for CalFresh benefits.To find verifications for Federal Work-Study eligibility, Click here!

I am eligible for Federal Work-Study, can I apply during the summer?

  • Federal Work-Study positions are only available in the Fall and Spring semesters and does not apply for the summer. However, you can look over the eligibility requirements to see if you may be eligible under any other qualification. Click here!

I don’t receive CAL Grant A or B, but I have been awarded Federal Work-Study. Am I still eligible?

  • Yes, you may have either Cal Grant A or B or Federal Work-Study to qualify for CalFresh benefits. However, contrary to Cal Grant A or B awards (which last in the fall, spring, and summer), Federal Work-Study eligibility is only awarded through the fall and spring semesters. If you are a student who qualifies for CalFresh through Federal Work-Study, you are only eligible to apply for benefits in the fall and spring.

I was awarded Cal Grant A or B/ Federal Work-Study previously, but no longer receive it (i.e. it’s not listed on my award letter for the current academic year). Am I still eligible?

  • Your award eligibility must be current the day you apply. If you do not receive Cal Grant/Work-Study anymore, you may not qualify for benefits under this qualification but may qualify underneath an alternate qualification. To find out other eligibility requirements, Click here

I live on campus now, but will be living off campus next academic year. Do I qualify to apply for benefits now?

  • You must be living off campus in order to apply for CalFresh. You will need to send verifications to the county with your current address to receive benefits. If you apply now, it will show that you live in on-campus housing so you may not qualify. Once you officially live off-campus, you may be able to qualify for CalFresh. 

If I am an undocumented student do I qualify for CalFresh?

  • CalFresh is a federal program and therefore undocumented students may not be eligible to receive CalFresh benefits. However, you do have the right to apply for CalFresh whether you meet the qualifications or not. 
  • COVID-19 Update: There are resources on campus that are available to all students. These resources include the Bobcat Pantry,  the off-campus food distribution, and more. Visit our COVID-19 Basic Needs Resources page for more info.

Am I still eligible to Food Stamps if you own a car or house?

  • Yes, you are still eligible for CalFresh benefits if you own a car and/or house.

My parents are not considered low income, but I do not live with them and I support myself through a job or financial aid. Can I still qualify for CalFresh benefits?

  • If you are a student over the age of 18 and support yourself, then your parent’s income is not considered in your application. The county will consider only your income. Keep in mind that your income must be under a certain amount depending on your household size. Check out part 5 of on the Am I Eligible page to find out the current maximum gross monthly income per household. 

What is my household size?

  • CalFresh defines a household as a person living alone or a group of people living together who buy food and prepare meals together. If you live in a house with housemates/ roommates but you all buy and prepare meals separately then you are considered a household of one.

I am employed. What are the income guidelines that I would have to fall within to qualify for CalFresh benefits?

  • See part 5 of our Am I Eligible page to see the income guidelines based on household size.

Application Process

I prequalified for CalFresh. How do I begin the application process?

  • COVID-19 Update:
    • If you would like to apply for CalFresh, visit our CalFresh Outreach page. Here, you will have the option to apply on your own or to apply with the help of one of our student staff members. We have moved to remote operations and will be conducting  appointments with our student staff online via Zoom. 

How long is the application process?

  • The application process may take up to 30 days depending on how fast you turn in your verification forms. The sooner you turn in your documents, the sooner you will receive your benefits.

If I pay for my cell-phone bill, do I choose "phone" as a utility on the GetCalFresh application?

  • No, only choose "phone" if you pay for a landline.

I received a letter from the county stating that I have been denied for benefits due to unreceived documents. What should I do?

  • You may receive a denial letter from the county if you did not turn in all required documents within 10 days. If this happens, turn in your documents as soon as possible. You have a total of 30 days after your interview until your application is officially terminated.

I did not turn in all my verification documents within the 30 day period. What should I do?

  • After 30 days, your application will be terminated. This means that you will have to reapply and go through the application process once more (applying, interview, documents, etc.).

When do I receive my CalFresh packet? 

  • Your packet should come within a week after you submit your application. However, this may vary depending on how busy the county is. 
  • COVID-19 Update: Please note that due to the current situation, the county is receiving an influx of applicants and may be delayed. If you have any questions you can contact the county office at: (209) 385-3000.

I received a package in the mail, but I do not know where to go to find my verifications.

  • Examples of how to find your verifications can be found our Verification Forms page. If you have any further questions about how to find your documents or can not find them on our page, email us at with your questions.

What do I need to fill out in my CalFresh packet? 

  • In your packet, you will receive a paper copy of your application as well as some legal information about your CalFresh benefits. If further verification forms are required, you will find an additional page that lists out all the documents you must still submit. To submit these documents, please mail them to the Merced County Human Services Agency at:  2115 Wardrobe Ave, Merced, CA 95341. If you have any questions on how to fill out certain documents please visit our Verification Forms page or email us at:

I missed my phone call from the county to schedule my interview. What do I do?

  • If you missed the phone call from the county, do not worry. Simply call them back and leave your first and last name, and reason for calling. You should expect to get a call back from the county within a week or so. To  contact a Human Service Agent call (209) 385-3000.

When do I receive my CalFresh (EBT) card? 

  • Your EBT card should come via mail after you submit all your required documents. If you were eligible for expedited services, you will receive your EBT card sooner and will be granted benefits within 3 days of applying.
  • COVID-19 Update: Please note that due to the current situation, the county is receiving an influx of applicants and may be delayed. If you have any questions you can contact the county office at: (209) 385-3000.

How do I check the balance on my CalFresh (EBT) card?  

  • To check the balance on your EBT card you can call the number located on the back of the card. You can also download the FreshEBT app or visit to check your card balance. 

 How will I know when I am able to use my CalFresh benefits?

  • You will be able to use your benefits once they have been distributed to you sometime after you turn in all your documents. You can check the amount on our card over the phone by calling the number on the back of the card or through the mobile app FreshEBT. 
    • The last digit of your EBT card will be any number from (0-9) and indicates the day of the month that your benefits will be disbursed (1- first day of the month, 2- second day of the month, ..., 0- tenth day of the month). 

SAR7 Related Questions

Do I need to include my student loans and grants in section 11 of the SAR7 Form?

  • No. Loans and grants are not seen as sources of income since they are used for educational purposes. This section is only to indicate any changes in money that you are receiving as income. (An example may be if there has been changes in the recurring allowance from your parents). If you have any further questions regarding SAR7/Annual report, email us at

How do I fill out section 9 of the SAR7 Form?

  • Section 9 of the SAR7 form deals with employment income. Therefore you will only fill this section out if you are currently employed during the reporting month. The reporting month can be found on the first page of the SAR7 packet on the top right corner next to the line that reads "REPORT MONTH". To fill out section 9 just answer the employment questions based on how often you were paid, how much income you received, and how many hours you worked within the Report Month. 
    • NOTE: You will have to submit proof of employment or unemployment for this section. Examples may include pay stubs of employment during the report month or proof that you no longer are employed.