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Student Eligibility

Things to consider before applying for CalFresh:

  • You have the right to apply for CalFresh even if it seems like you may not be eligible.
  • If an individual in your household is physically/mentally unable to work and/or is receiving disability benefits from any source, they only need to meet the basic eligibility qualifications below. 
  • Out-of-state students can still be eligible for CalFresh Foods if they are residing in California for the school year.
  • CalFresh Advocates cannot determine your eligibility for CalFresh, this can only be determined by CalFresh County Representatives.
  • You can review basic eligibility via our CalFresh Prescreen Survey! If you have questions, please contact our CalFresh Outreach team at

Top 5 Basic CalFresh Eligibility Requirements (CHIMS)

  1. Citizenship (Multiple Qualifying Statuses)
  2. Household Size 
  3. Income
  4. Meal Plan Status
  5. Student Exemption 

1) Citizenship  

A household can potentially qualify for CalFresh if at least one person (including children) is under the following citizenship statues: 
  • US citizen or permanent resident​ 
  • Have refugee status, asylum, or parolee status​ 
  • Have, or is applying for, a U-Visa or T-Visa​ 
  • Is an applicant for VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) relief​ 
  • Or is a Cuban or Haitian entrant 
  • Is an Afghan entering with special Immigrant VISA (SIV), (SQ/SI) Parole, or other forms of humanitarian parole 
  • Is Hmong/Laotian or American Indian born in Canada
Mixed-status families can still apply for CalFresh if they have eligible members in their households! The California Department of Social Services is not allowed to share immigration information with federal agencies and the information is kept strictly confidential. For example, undocumented parents can apply for benefits for their citizen children.
For a full list of qualifying immigration statuses, and information regarding Public Charge or other FAQ’s visit  
International, DACA, and DREAM students will not be eligible, even with a work VISA/Social Security Number. Reach out to our team about other food support services or visit our pages here. Please also visit our Services for Undocumented Students page for more resources.  

2) Household 

A household is defined as a person living alone (yourself) or a group of people (including yourself) currently living together who buy and prepare food together. 
Example: Roommates/housemates with whom you buy and prepare more than half of your meals together. 
Mandatory Households: Individuals that must be included in your household, when currently living together, even if you do not buy and prepare food together. The following individuals must be included in your household: 
  • Parents (only if you are under the age of 22 and currently live with them)  
  • Children under the age of 22 
  • Spouses 
  • Unmarried couple living together with a common child 

3) Income 

Your household must be under the gross monthly income limit in the "Income Guidelines" table below. 

Income Guidelines

October 1, 2022 - September 30, 2023

Household Size

Gross Monthly Income


$23 - $281
$23 - $516
$23 - $740
$23 - $939
$23 - $1116
$23 - $1,339
$23 - $1,480
$23 - $1,691
*The maximum allotment is not guaranteed. The temporary CalFresh Emergency Allotments which provided a minimum of $95 for CalFresh households is ending in March 2023. Beginning in April 2023, your CalFresh benefits will return to the regular benefit amount.

4) Meal Plans 

Your household must not be on a meal plan or be provided with less than half (10 or less) meals per week from another source. UC Merced Students who live on campus are required to enroll in the Unlimited Meal Plan and are therefore ineligible while residing on campus; unless a meal plan exemption for extraordinary circumstances has been submitted and approved.
For more information on campus meal plans, please visit the Dining Services Website. Or contact Dining Services at

5) Student Eligibility  

Students must meet the Basic Eligibility listed above AND must currently meet at least one of the following student exemptions. 
Student Exemptions:
  • Enrolled less than half-time
  • Age 17 or younger or age 50 or older
  • Does not expect to be enrolled next term
  • $0 Expected Family Contribution (EFC) (Temporary Covid Exemption)
  • Eligible for federal work study (Temporary Covid Exemption)
  • Approved for a TANF-funded Cal Grant A or B and received proof from California Student Aid Commission
  • Working an average of 20 hours per week or a total of 80 hours per month
  • Responsible for the care of a household member under the age of 6
  • Responsible for the care of a household member under the age of 12 without adequate childcare
  • A single parent responsible for the care of a household member under the age of 12
  • Receiving California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) or Tribal TANF
  • Enrolled in a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program
  • Students Participating in a Local Program that Increases Employability ("LPIE"):
    • Campus Student Employment
    • Research and Teaching Assistantship Programs
    • College Corps (not considered employment and income is exempt grant income)
    • Student Success Interns (SSI)
    • Fiat Lux or Guardian Scholars
    • Teaching Credential Program 
    • A qualifying graduate degree program that requires employment
    • Expanded list of UC Merced eligible campus programs here!
Be sure to remember your Student Exemption when communicating with the County during your interview. Please see our Verification Forms page to locate common verification forms.  

Last Updated: Mar. 22, 2023