The CalFresh program, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in other states, helps low-income families stay healthy by providing monthly assistance the family can use to purchase food. Most food items qualify under the CalFresh program and any California resident who meets the requirements can apply.
The monthly benefit amount a household will receive under the CalFresh program depends on the size of the household. However, most households receive an average of $200 per month, according to the California Department of Social Services. Recipients will get their benefits automatically and can use them at a participating store in California. Under the program, families can purchase any food used to prepare a meal, such as whole fruits and vegetables, meat, baking goods, cereals or bread. They cannot purchase prepared hot foods, household items such as toiletries or cleaning products, pet food, alcohol or tobacco products.
The CalFresh program is open to U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who have either lived in the country for a period of five years, receive disability assistance or are under the age of 18, according to the California Department of Social Services. Applicants who are employed must also meet low-income standards, which require that a family's income does not exceed 130 percent of the federal poverty level. For example, a family of four can make $2,389 gross income a month and still qualify for the program, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Senior citizens and the disabled may not need to meet income requirements. Families who already receive cash assistance through a California-based assistance program are automatically eligible for CalFresh.
Applicants can print an application for the CalFresh program on the California Department of Social Services website. Applicants can mail or bring their completed application to the county welfare department in their area. The applicant will need to complete an interview with a welfare department caseworker either in person or over the phone, depending on which county the applicant lives in. The applicant will also need to provide the welfare department with current bank statements, a Social Security number for everyone in his household, and proof of identity, residency, and income. Typically, approved applicants will start receiving benefits within 30 days, according to the California Department of Social Services.
Any adult who can work in the household must work at least 20 hours per week or complete 20 hours per week in an approved work activity, according to the California Department of Social Services. Adults who do not meet this requirement can only receive three months of benefits through the CalFresh program. All adult members of the family must also provide the county welfare department with two fingerprints and a photo for identification. However, disabled persons who are unable to provide fingerprints are exempt from this requirement.