Food is the Foundation of Health: CalFresh – Part II

June 29, 2020 0

This is the second in a two-part series about CalFresh, California’s version of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, once known as food stamps. CalFresh allows low-income individuals and families to afford more food so they don’t have to choose between basic needs and putting food on the table.

When it comes to state-sponsored assistance, people sometimes worry that they won’t qualify or that applying for assistance will somehow put them at risk. Here are the facts.

Lots of People Qualify for Benefits

You can still get benefits if you own a car or a home, have a job, receive unemployment benefits, have no permanent address, have some savings, have a family, don’t have a family, are a college student, are a legal permanent resident, or receive Social Security benefits. In fact, people with a criminal background, even some felons, may be eligible for CalFresh benefits. (Be aware that if you are applying for benefits and there is a warrant out for your arrest, your name will be turned in to the appropriate authorities.)

Immigration Status and CalFresh

Although undocumented immigrants do not qualify for benefits, undocumented parents can apply for benefits for their children if the children are legal residents. And, if you are a legal resident interested in becoming a citizen, applying for CalFresh will not hurt your chances of becoming a US citizen. CalFresh is not considered a welfare program and it is not cash aid. Besides, CalFresh does not share client records with immigration authorities.

Keeping Your Kids

Applying for CalFresh will not result in having your children taken away from you. By applying for CalFresh, you are helping to ensure your children have enough to eat—that speaks well of your parenting. Plus, if you are eligible for CalFresh, your children are automatically eligible for free or reduced-price meals at public schools.

What You Can’t Buy

Because CalFresh is intended to improve health and wellness by providing nutritious food, the CalFresh EBT cards cannot be used to buy alcohol, tobacco products, pet food, or non-food household items such as soap, paper products, household supplies, vitamins, or medicines. CalFresh EBT cards also cannot be used to purchase food in restaurants or food that is intended to be eaten in a store such as prepared hot foods. However, there are a few exceptions for those over 60 years old, or who are disabled or homeless.

How Much Can You Get?

The benefits a household receives depend on household size, household income, and monthly expenses, including costs like housing and utilities. A family of four with a gross monthly income of $4,292 (or about $51,500 per year) is eligible and the definition of household does not require people to be related, simply to buy and prepare food together. The average CalFresh household receives more than $300 per month, with a household of four being eligible for as much as $642 per month. You can learn more about eligibility online at

To apply for CalFresh, make an appointment with our Mendocino Coast Clinics Outreach Department or visit Mendocino County Social Services at 764 S. Franklin Street in Fort Bragg. You can also go online to

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Copyright by Mendocino Coast Clinics. All rights reserved. This Health Center receives HHS funding and has Federal PHS deemed status with respect to certain health or health-related claims, including medical malpractice claims, for itself and its covered individuals. This Health Center is a Health Center Program grantee under 42 U.S.C. 245b, and deemed a Public Health Service employee under 42 U.S.C. 233 (g)-(n). Any claim filed against MCC must be done in federal court.