Second Harvest of Silicon Valley not only refers community members to free groceries at nearby food distributions and pantries, but we can also help you apply for CalFresh (also called SNAP or EBT, formerly known as food stamps).

Why is it important to connect callers to CalFresh benefits?

Director of Services Kelly Chew says it best: “CalFresh is the solution for the general public because it gives you the most flexibility. CalFresh can add to your food budget to put healthy and nutritious food on the table. You can use CalFresh at so many stores and even online. You can even have the CalFresh food shipped to your door from the grocery store. CalFresh is the best solution to addressing hunger in general. It is supplemental to our food.”

Because we consider CalFresh a complement to free food programs, we always inform callers that CalFresh could be an option and that we can help them through the application process. Living here is expensive. Getting healthy food doesn’t have to be.

Food Connection Hotline: 1-800-984-3663

Call us Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. PST. We can answer your questions and help you apply for CalFresh.

Spring harvested bananas, tomatoes, broccolli, pears, and celery displayed. on picnic table outoodrs.

We asked our Food Connection Hotline staff the most asked questions they receive about CalFresh. Clients will ask:

What is CalFresh?

CalFresh (formerly known as food stamps) helps people with limited income pay for food. CalFresh can be used at most grocery stores, when ordering groceries online at select retailers and at farmers markets that accept an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. Benefits are provided on an EBT card that works like a debit card. CalFresh benefits are not a loan and do not need to be paid back.

CalFresh is a nutrition program, funded by the USDA, which also funds free lunches at schools and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). CalFresh is not the same as CalWORKs or welfare. The CalFresh Program is federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) outside of California.

How can I apply for CalFresh?

  • Call Us

    Call our Food Connection hotline: 1-800-984-3663
    We can answer your questions and help you apply.

  • Request a Contact

    Select your preferred language below to have us get in contact with you.
    English | Spanish | Vietnamese | Chinese | Tagalog

  • Apply Online

    You can also visit the CalFresh online application page to submit your application directly.

What to Expect Next?

Visit our CalFresh page to understand what to expect in the application process:

Expect a phone call or mail within 14 days.

Get Money

If you are approved for CalFresh, you will get an EBT card for groceries within 10 days of approval.

Buy Groceries

EBT cards work in most food stores, online and at some farmers markets.

Claribel, CalFresh specialist and Food Connection Field Coordinator at her desk ready to take your call.

“We get a lot of calls about CalFresh because people want to be helped with the application. They love our services.” – Claribel, bilingual in Spanish and English

What can I buy with my CalFresh EBT card?

CalFresh benefits can be used to purchase any food EXCEPT heated foods. CalFresh cannot be used to buy non-food items such as diapers, beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco.

How much can you get from CalFresh?

California releases its maximum CalFresh Allotments every fiscal year. For this current cycle, here are the maximum monthly asset limits:

People in HouseholdGross Monthly IncomeNet Monthly IncomeMaximum CalFresh Allotment
1$2,148$1,074$250
2$2,904$1,452$459
3$3,660$1,830$658
4$4,418$2,209$835
5$5,174$2,587$992
6$5,930$2,965$1190
7$6,688$3,344$1,316
8$7,444$3,722$1,504
Each additional member+$758+$379+$188

Do I have to pay CalFresh back?

No, you will not have to pay any money back unless you are overpaid.

Do CalFresh benefits roll over each month?

Yes, any balance remaining on your Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card will roll over to the following month. Your benefits won’t be adjusted or reduced because you aren’t using the full amount every month.

Do you have to pay taxes on CalFresh?

No, you do not need to report CalFresh on your tax return.

Does CalFresh count as income?

No, CalFresh allotments made to each household are not counted as taxable income.

Do I need to show proof of income when applying for CalFresh?

Earned and unearned income must be reported. If you need help getting documentation, you should discuss your needs with the CalFresh case worker during the interview.

Who can get CalFresh?

You can get CalFresh even if you get money from a job, disability, unemployment, Social Security, CalWORKs, General Assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or retirement.

“A senior called to apply for CalFresh and had just picked up free groceries at a Second Harvest distribution site. He was a senior and lost his job during the pandemic. He was also going to a community college to learn English. He said it would help him adapt to American life easily if he could speak a bit of English. He said he was very grateful that I not only assisted him in the application and followed up, but also listened to his situation without any judgement.” -Quy, bilingual in Vietnamese and English

Quy, Food Connection Coordinator, at desk with laptop

Can CalFresh affect my immigration status?

No, CalFresh will not harm your ability to become a legal resident or citizen.

Can I get CalFresh if I don’t have kids?

Yes, people who do not have children can get CalFresh.

Can I get CalFresh as a college student?

Yes, many college students can get CalFresh if they meet student requirements.

Can I get CalFresh if I am not a legal resident or citizen?

To qualify, at least one household member must be a legal resident or citizen, even if that person is a child. Sponsored immigrants may be eligible.

Can I get CalFresh if I own my home or a car?

Yes, you can own your home or a car and have savings and still be eligible.

Will CalFresh hurt my children’s future?

No, your children will not be negatively impacted if you receive CalFresh.

  • Your children will not have to serve in the military if you receive CalFresh.
  • Your children will not have to pay back your CalFresh benefits at any time.
  • Your children will not be taken away from you.

Can I reapply for CalFresh if I was denied?

Yes, even if you have applied for CalFresh before and were denied, you should try again. New laws have passed to make it easier.

Does CalFresh take my fingerprints?

No, fingerprinting is no longer required to get CalFresh.

Patrick, Food Conncection staff member at Second Harvest of Silicon Valley

“I like when people say, ‘I want to cancel my CalFresh.’ They’re actually cancelling to say, ‘Oh we’re okay now.’ When we help them get through the things they are going through, eventually, they will get back on their feet and that makes me feel good.”
— Patrick, bilingual in Tagalog and English

Living here is expensive. Getting healthy food doesn’t have to be.

Second Harvest of Silicon Valley’s Food Connection hotline has been a lifeline for people seeking nutritious food since 1988. Hotline staff connect callers to sources of free food near where they live and work and can help callers apply for CalFresh benefits. Hotline staff can serve seven callers at once and speak six different languages. Our staff also work with a third-party translation service so we can serve anyone who needs help. In 2021, we received an average of 270 calls a day.

For more information on CalFresh, call Second Harvest’s Food Connection hotline at 1-800-984-3663.

Call us Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. PST. We can answer your questions and help you apply.