CalFresh Challenge


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What is CalFresh?

CalFresh is a program funded by the USDA to help improve health and nutrition of families with low incomes. CalFresh can stretch food dollars, allowing families and individuals to buy more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and other healthy foods.

About CalFresh

  • Provides an average benefit of $4.90 per person each day for food (San Diego).
  • Recipients can use their benefits at locations that accept them. A map of stores that accept CalFresh can be found here.
  • Less than 2% rate of fraud, including worker error and retailer abuse. [1]

Who is eligible?

  • US Citizens and legal residents can qualify for benefits.
  • A household of four must be earning less than $3,926 gross per month ($47,112/year), or below 130% of poverty.

How can I find out if I might be eligible?

There are many ways to find out if you might qualify:

  • Go to to prescreen and submit an application.
  • Call 2-1-1 San Diego and be prescreened over the phone. You may also be able to apply over the phone.
  • Go to a Family Resource Center (FRC) to apply in person. Find your nearest FRC here.

What can CalFresh benefits be used to purchase?

CalFresh benefits can be used to purchase:

  • Foods for human consumption.
  • Seeds and plants to grow food for household use.

What can you not purchase with CalFresh benefits?

CalFresh benefits cannot be used to purchase:

  • Any non-food item such as pet food, soaps, paper products, household supplies, grooming items and cosmetics.
  • Alcoholic beverages or tobacco products.
  • Vitamins and medicines.
  • Any food that will be eaten in the store.*
  • Any food marketed to be heated in the store.*

* Except in a restaurant located in a county approved to operate a restaurant meals program.

About Hunger in San Diego County

  • More than 446,000 people live below the poverty line in San Diego County (household incomes of less than $22,350 per year for a family of four). [1]
  • 4 million adult Californians were food insecure (hungry) in 2009; 210,000 of those adults are in San Diego County. [3]
  • Over 435,700 (477 million meals per year) San Diegans were served by Food Pantries (almost 14% of the population of SD County) in 2010, 46% of whom were children. [4]
  • The San Diego Food Bank serves 350,000 people per month, distributing more than 20 million pounds of food this year. [5]

What Hunger Looks Like

Parents skip meals; seniors choose between medication and a meal; food rationing; forced to choose less expensive and less healthy options (eg. whole grains vs processed; “risks” of fresh foods, etc).

How Much Does Hunger Cost?

  • $90 Billion annually (nationally) in lost productivity, reduced education effectiveness, and increased healthcare costs.
  • Hunger costs California about $11.3 billion each year. [6]

CalFresh Income Limits & Allotments October 1, 2012 – September 30, 2013

Household Size*

Gross Monthly Income Limit†




$15 - $189



$15 - $347



$15 - $497



$15 - $632



$15 - $750



$15 - $900

+ additional person



* A CalFresh household is an individual or group of individuals who live together and customarily purchase and prepare meals together for home consumption.

†Households that contain someone over the age of 60 or disabled may still be able to qualify, even if their income is over the limits listed above.

‡CalFresh Allotment levels will vary depending upon your income and certain expenses.

More about people who receive CalFresh Benefits

  • Less than half of eligible people in San Diego County participate, which means we miss out on at least $105 million in CalFresh dollars, plus the economic stimulus of $1.79 per dollar of CalFresh. [7]
  • Of the 379,853 people in San Diego that participate:
    • Over 58% of individuals are children or seniors.
    • Over 40% of households are working, but don’t earn a sufficient wage to bring them above the 130% poverty line.

How is CalFresh funded?

CalFresh, called SNAP nationally, is funded through the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill is reauthorized every 5 years.

How can I help?



[2] U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2010, Compiled by SANDAG, Nov. 2011.