Help Buying Groceries (CalFresh Food)

CalFresh Food is California's name for the federal food program called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that used to be known as Food Stamps.

CalFresh Food is a nutrition program for California residents with low income that increases your food budget. It allows you buy healthy food at most stores, such as food outlets, grocery stores, farmers markets and some restaurants.

Are You Eligible?

Can you get CalFresh Food and how much? This is based on your family size, income and some living costs.

You can use the BenefitsCal Ask Robin online virtual assistant before completing an actual application to estimate your eligibility.

Once you apply a County Eligibility Worker will decide if you qualify.

If you need food right away, you may qualify for Expedited Services. Those who qualify will receive CalFresh Food benefits within 3 days from the date you applied.

CalFresh Employment & Training

The CalFresh Employment & Training program (CFET) is a free and voluntary program for people on CalFresh Food benefits gain skills, tools, basic education, training and work experience. This program will help you gain marketable job skills to give you access to better jobs and higher wages. For more program information and locations visit: Santa Clara County CalFresh Employment & Training.

Application Process

  1. Complete & Submit Application
  2. Get an Interview – A phone or in person interview will be scheduled with a County Eligibility Worker.
  3. Paper documents may be needed if income, citizenship or other information cannot be verified electronically or is questionable. For a list of paper documents that could be needed view Commonly Used Verification Documents.
  4. Within 30 Days of the day you apply, you will get a Notice of Action (NOA) in mail. This will let you know if your CalFresh Food application was approved or denied.
  5. If approved, you will receive an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card in mail. You may arrange through your County Eligibility Worker to pick up your EBT card at a County office.

Back to top

Using Your Benefits

Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card

To use your benefits you will get a plastic EBT card, also known as the Golden State Advantage card. You can use it just like a debit or ATM card by entering a four-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN). For security the PIN will be sent in a separate mailing, follow instructions to change PIN.

How to check your EBT card balance, buying history and places to use your EBT card;

Beware of EBT Theft and Scams

Protect yourself against scams, always keep your EBT card and PIN safe and secret. If you receive a text, email or phone call asking for your EBT card number or PIN, DO NOT provide your information, this is a SCAM!

If you have been a victim of stolen benefits: Report the theft to your county worker or 408-758-3800 within 10 days.

Watch EBT Scam Video

Places Where You Can Use Your EBT Card

Locations post signs if your EBT card can be used there. Here are some types of places you can use your EBT at.

Retail Stores – To find a store that accepts EBT cards visit: CalFresh Food Retail Locator.

Online Shopping – To find a store that accepts EBT cards online visit: CA EBT Online

Restaurants – If you are homeless, disabled or 60 years of age or older you can use your EBT card to purchase hot, prepared food at some restaurants.

To find restaurants that accept EBT cards visit and filter by Restaurant: CalFresh Food Retail Locator.

If you own a restaurant and would like more information about how you can participate in this program, send an email to [email protected]

Farmers' Markets – You can use your EBT card at many Farmers' Markets to buy delicious locally grown produce. Many markets take part in the Market Match program, which doubles your dollars to give you free produce every time you shop.
For more program information and locations visit: Resources to Stretch Your Food Dollars.

CA Fruit and Vegetable - Get up to $60 FREE fruits and vegetables per month with your EBT card at participating stores. 

Details at: or 1-800-984-3663



Keeping Your Benefits

Regular Reporting

The County will send you a form in the mail every 6 months to report changes. These may be changes in your income, rent or other factors that may affect your benefits. If you don't return the form your benefits will be stopped.

The County will set up a phone or in-person interview once a year for most CalFresh Food households. However, if there are people in your family who are disabled or over 60, you may not need an interview that often. Your County Eligibility Worker will tell you what to expect.

Income Change Reporting

If your income changes between regular reports and exceeds your Income Reporting Threshold (IRT), it must be reported within 10 days. You must report it to your County Eligibility Worker who will inform you of your IRT. If you fail to report this change you may have to repay benefits that you were given in error.

Account Maintenance

If your mailing address or phone number change, please contact your County Eligibility Worker.

Back to top


Things to Know

Frequently Asked Questions

    CalFresh Food can be used to buy any food that are produced for human consumption. You cannot buy hot foods or lunch counter items prepared or heated in the store; alcoholic beverages and tobacco; vitamins or medicines; pet food; or nonfood items. Seeds and plants for use in home gardens to produce food can also be purchased.​​

    If filing out the entire CalFresh Food application is difficult for you, you can submit the application with only your name, address, and signature. A County Worker will assist you in filing out the rest of the application.

    In most cases, the County has 30 days after you turn in your application to determine if you will get CalFresh Food benefits. During the 30 days, the County will interview you by phone or in person.

    You can qualify for Expedited Services if you meet all other CalFresh requirements, provide identification and

    • Your household makes less than $150 in monthly income and have less than $100 money on hand*; or
    • Your household’s combined monthly income and money on hand* are less than your household’s combined monthly rent and utilities; or
    • You are a migrant or seasonal farm worker and have less than $100 money on hand.*

    *Liquid resources, i.e. cash on hand, checking or savings account, saving certificates and lump sum payments

    ​Yes. Effective 6/1/19, SSI/SSP recipients can receive CalFresh Food Benefits if they meet all other eligibility criteria.

    Yes. Being married and/or having children is NOT a requirement.

    Yes. A person must reside in the county in which an application is filed. However, residence in a permanent dwelling or a fixed mailing address is NOT required​.

    You may be eligible if you are a “qualified” noncitizen. This includes Legal Permanent Residents (holders of a green card), refugees, asylees (an individual who has been granted asylum), individuals granted withholding of deportation or removal, Cuban/Haitian entrants, individuals paroled into the U.S. for a least one year by immigration authorities, conditional entrants (temporary green card). Certain victims of domestic violence, victims of human trafficking (T visa) and applicants for U visa/interim relief can also be eligible for CalFresh​.

    Yes. Your children may be eligible even if you are not. You may apply for CalFresh Food for your child(ren) who were born in the United States or are a Qualified Noncitizen.​​​

    Liquid resources such as cash, checking and saving accounts are not counted in the CalFresh Food program​.

    Disabled and elderly individuals may have others assist them with cooking when needed. Also, disabled, homeless and people 60 years and older can buy prepared meals under the Restaurant Meals Program​.

    Find Locations

    Yes. As of April 1, 2015, you may be eligible for CalFresh Food if you follow the terms of your probation or parole, if applicable​. 

    Contact the County Worker that is handling your case. You will find their contact information of the top right corner of the last County Notice of Action (NOA).
    If you are not satisfied with the response from your County Worker, ask to speak to a Supervisor.
    If you are not satisfied with the response from a Supervisor;
    You may request a free confidential case review from our County Ombudsman Office by emailing [email protected].


    You have a right to ask for Hearing. To request a Hearing, follow the instructions on the back side of the County NOA you received.

    Fill out the back of the NOA and send or take page to;
    Appeals Unit
    County of Santa Clara Social Services
    333 W Julian St.
    San Jose, CA 95110-2335


    Call 1-800-952-5253
    TDD for hearing or speech impaired 1-800-952-8349

    Connect with Us

    ©2024 County of Santa Clara. All rights reserved.