Income Guidelines for California Food Stamps

California's CalFresh, a federally funded food assistance program administered by the California Department of Social Services, provides monthly grocery funding to low-income families, individuals and households. The income eligibility requirements for CalFresh are based on the federal poverty level, the applicant's annual gross and net earnings, the size of the household, and deductions for shelter and other costs.

Gross Income Requirement

CalFresh applicants must meet a gross income requirement to be considered for the program, unless the household receives all income from cash assistance, or a dependent elderly or disabled member lives in the household. The combined gross income requirement for CalFresh eligibility is 165 percent of the federal poverty level for families with an independent elderly or disabled household member, and 130 percent for all other households. For a listing of the 2010 federal poverty levels by family size, see Resources.

Net Income Requirement

If the CalFresh gross income requirement is met, the household must also meet a net income requirement that does not exceed 100 percent of the federal poverty level. To determine a household's net income, certain deductions may be subtracted from the gross income, such as a standard 20 percent income deduction, a deduction based on family size, and expenses for shelter, utilities and dependent or child care costs. For a complete list of legal deductions, see References.

Types of Income

All income coming into the household must be reported on the CalFresh application, including wages, salaries or government assistance benefits. Income that does not require disclosure includes nonmonetary in-kind gains such as meals or clothing, vendor payments from third parties to help pay for household expenses, deferred student loans, grants or scholarships, charitable donations that do not exceed $300 during a four-month period, and infrequent income that does not exceed $30 in a four-month period.


Proof of identification, all income and deductible expenses must be shown at the time of the household's CalFresh interview, which follows receipt of the food assistance application. Documentation includes such items as W-2 forms, pay stubs, lease agreements and utility bills, which must be shown as proof of need. If the applicant cannot show documentation of his deductions, they will not be subtracted from his gross income.


In California, households can determine income eligibility for CalFresh by taking an online California Department of Social Services' pre-screening eligibility tool. For a link to the online pre-screening questionnaire, see Resources.