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CalFresh Frequently Asked Questions for Students (FAQS)

Click on one of the three categories below or scroll down the page to see questions.

General Questions

Eligibility Questions

Application Process 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 including 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?

              • Yes, for more information on where you can find application assistance, check out our home page.

              Where do I turn in my verification forms/documents?

              • You can turn in your verification forms to our representative on Wednesdays from 10-12pm and 1-4pm in the Blue and Gold Room (in front of the housing office)
              • OR, you can mail or drop of your verification forms/documents to the Merced County Human Services Agency: 2115 Wardrobe Ave, Merced, CA 95341


              Am I considered a student?

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

              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.

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

              • Unfortunately, you will not be eligible to apply until the academic year begins.

              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 only qualifies for CalFresh through Federal Work-Study only, you are only eligible for benefits in the fall and spring. In this case, your CalFresh benefits would most likely cease during the summer.

              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.

              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 eligible to receive CalFresh benefits. There are resources on campus that are for all students, such as the Bobcat Pantry (available to all UC Merced students), the off-campus food distribution and more. Visit our Food 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 18 years old who supports them self, then your parent’s income is not considered in your application. The county will consider only your income which must be under a certain amount depending on household size.

              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?

              • Visit our website to see the income guidelines based on household size. Click here!

              Application Process

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

              • There are a couple ways for you to apply:
                • Apply online at
                • OR visit the Merced County Human Services Agency located on 2115 Wardrobe Ave, Merced CA 95341 to fill out a paper application.

              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 recieve your benefits.

              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. 

              I did not turn in all my verification documents within the 30 day period, should I reapply and start the entire application process over again?

              • Yes, after the 30 days, you will have to reapply for CalFresh benefits.

              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 website. Or you can visit our office in SSM 130 for assistance.

              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 leave your first and last name, and the last 4 digits of your social security number via voicemail. You should expect to get a call back from the county within a week or so.