CalFresh and Food Assistance

This is a picture of the "CalFresh and Food Assistance" logo next to two pictures. the first of a grandmother and grandaughter picking out produce to buy. the second picture is of a young boy smiling at the camera while eating a bowl of cereal.

http://www.cachampionsforchange.net/en/index.phpOn 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. Currently, 2.3 million Californians receive CalFresh benefits. Unfortunately, there are over 5.2 million Californians that are income-eligible, leaving almost 3 million people unserved in our state according to the California Food Policy Advocates. Many people are currently experiencing food insecurity and hunger instead of participating in CalFresh. Furthermore, an additional $6.9 billion of economic activity a year would be generated in California if there were full participation in the program.

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WHAT IS CALFRESH?

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.

WHO CAN RECEIVE CALFRESH?

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 underparticipation in the program millions of dollars in benefits are being left unused.

When you apply, your income and many other factors are taken into account to determine whether or not you are eligible. By calling 2-1-1 San Diego, you can be prescreened for major eligibility criteria, helping you to understand if you might be eligible to receive CalFresh and to feel more prepared before you begin the application process.

HOW DOES CALFRESH WORK?

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.

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HOW MUCH CAN I RECEIVE IN CALFRESH BENEFITS EACH MONTH?

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

WHAT IF I AM ALREADY RECEIVING NUTRITIONAL ASSISTANCE? CAN I APPLY FOR CALFRESH?

If you are already receiving Supplemental Nutritional Assistance on an EBT card, you are now automatically enrolled in CalFresh! Your benefits will continue without interruption and there is no need to also apply for CalFresh. The eligibility requirements remain the same, only the name has been changed to reflect the goal of the program and what it really is – a way for people to provide healthy food for their families.

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HOW DO I APPLY?

You can read about the application process on the State of California's website; you can fill out an application online through Benefits Cal or you can dial 2-1-1 for more information.

Our 2-1-1 Client Service Representatives prescreen callers with a few quick questions to see if they or anyone in the household meet the basic criteria to be eligible for CalFresh. If you might be eligible, they can help direct you to the next step in the process of applying.

2-1-1 San Diego can also provide you with additional information about the CalFresh program, including the options in the County for applying and the locations where you can apply and/or receive assistance with completing the application.

2-1-1 can help callers access the CalFresh program in the following ways:

  • Assist potentially eligible callers with completing the CalFresh application over-the-phone,
  • Send an application packet to the caller to complete on his or her own,
  • Connect callers with a Community Based Organization (CBO) that can help with the application process,
  • Connect callers to their respective County Family Resource Center where you can apply in person,
  • Or direct callers to onlne options for submitting an application to the County.

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WHAT IS PRESCREENING?

Prescreening is a process during which callers answer a few questions regarding major criteria for CalFresh eligibility. This process is referred to as “prescreening” to reinforce that it is not a process to determine eligibility and it does not “screen out” potential applicants. 

Prescreening only determines whether the caller may be eligible for CalFresh. There are many factors that go into determining CalFresh eligibility that this quick assessment does not take into account. Prescreening encourages people who are potentially eligible to apply for CalFresh. Prescreening saves people time and effort if they are likely not eligible for CalFresh. Every caller must be informed that only an eligibility worker in a county food stamp office can make a final decision about whether a household is eligible for CalFresh.

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CAN I PRESCREEN MYSELF?

You can call 2-1-1 to be prescreened by a CSR, or you can click here to use this resource tool to check if you are likely eligible.

WHAT IS 2-1-1 SAN DIEGO'S INVOLVEMENT WITH CALFRESH?

2-1-1 San Diego is leading the way in phone-based outreach. This means that we are helping to connect people who might be eligible for the program with the steps they need to take in order to apply. 2-1-1 San Diego is working with the County to make the CalFresh application process easier. Our organization is the first of its kind to have a Benefits and Enrollment Department in which Certified Application Assistants (CAAs)can fully complete CalFresh applications over the phone with clients. The application is submitted to the County via One-e-App with a telephonic signature (the caller says his or her name into a recorded phone line to sign the application). With guidance from 2-1-1 CAAs, the caller then sends the necessary documentation directly to the County without having to physically go into the office. This 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 within 30 days.

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