FAQ

Looking to apply for CalFresh food benefits and not sure where to start? You might find these FAQ topics most useful.

I’m interested in CalFresh – what should I do first?

Complete the interest form: CalFresh Program – Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz (thefoodbank.org) or call our CalFresh Outreach team at (831) 662-0991 to learn if you qualify.

What is an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card?

Clients are issued a plastic card called an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Card that receives deposits each month and they can use it like a debit card to make food purchases from stores and farmers’ markets that accept CalFresh benefits. The amount of the food purchases will be automatically deducted from the CalFresh EBT account.

How does CalFresh benefit me?

CalFresh is a food assistance program that deposits money on an EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) Card that you can use as a debit card to purchase food at most grocery stores, convenience stores, and even farmers markets. This is free money that you do not need to report as income, and you are not taxed! You can continue to receive these benefits as long as you continue to qualify.

At the farmers’ markets in Santa Cruz County, you can receive tokens to purchase food at the market such as produce, eggs, and even honey and hummus. There is also a Market Match program at the farmers’ markets (while supplies last) that provides an extra $10 in tokens when you take out $10 from your EBT card. (This also applies to P-EBT.)

What information do I need to submit?

Our CalFresh Outreach team can help you submit the necessary documents during the application process. Contact us at (831) 662-0991 and ask for a CalFresh Outreach Coordinator to assist you with your application process.

How long does it take to find out if I qualify for CalFresh once I submit the application?

When you apply for CalFresh, you are usually contacted by the county within 10-14 days (about two weeks). You will complete a phone interview and review your information to confirm that you qualify for benefits. If you submit all the necessary documents ahead of time, you should find out during the interview whether you qualify.

If you completed your interview but still need to submit documents, want to know if you qualified, or if you missed your interview, you may contact us at (831) 662-0991 and ask for a CalFresh Outreach Coordinator to assist you with your case.

I applied for CalFresh in the past and did not qualify. Can I apply again if my circumstances change?

When you apply for CalFresh, you only need to provide income and expense information for the past 30 days. If your income varies or has changed since then, it is possible that you could qualify if you reapply. If you are a Santa Cruz County resident, you can contact us at (831) 662-0991 and we can prescreen you to see if you do qualify for CalFresh and to assist you with the application process.

Can I apply for CalFresh benefits if I am not related to the people in my household, or the people I live with are not my immediate family?

Yes, a household is defined as the people you buy and prepare food with. You do not have to be related to the people in your household to apply for CalFresh. In some cases, you can even apply as a household of one.

Do you have to be unemployed to qualify for CalFresh Benefits? No, you can be working and still qualify for CalFresh benefits. It depends on the size of your household and whether you meet the gross and net income requirements after allowed expenses.

Can students qualify for CalFresh?

College students (age 18 to 49) enrolled half-time or more must meet one of the following criteria on the date of the CalFresh interview:

    • Working an average of 20 hours per week or 80 hours per month.
    • Approved for state or federally funded work study for the current term or enrolled in WIOA, EOPS or other programs that increase employability.
    • Have parental responsibility for a child under age six.
    • Enrolled full-time and a single parent with responsibility for a dependent child under age 12.

Can I apply for CalFresh if I do not live in Santa Cruz County?

Yes, you can! CalFresh is the statewide version of the federal SNAP program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), so, any resident of California can apply with the county where they reside. However, if you are looking for support through Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County, we can only assist residents of Santa Cruz County. If you are in another county, we suggest you look up your local food bank for support or the county Human Services Department to apply for CalFresh.