About the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
SNAP, which in California is called CalFresh and was formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, helps low-income people buy the food needed for good health by way of a debit card that can only be used to buy food items.
The purpose of CalFresh is to provide food assistance to end hunger, improve nutrition, and health.
How to Apply for CalFresh
Even if you are working, or own a house, or a car; you may be eligible for CalFresh benefits to help pay some of your food expenses. Any person has the right to apply for CalFresh. Your household may be able to get CalFresh if you work for low wages, are unemployed or work part time, receive welfare or other benefits, are elderly or disabled and live on a small income, or are homeless. It is a good idea when your family is in need of food assistance to first contact the Department of Social Services because so many factors must be considered. Click here to find the office nearest you.
It is also possible for residents of San Luis Obispo County to apply for CalFresh on-line at My Benefits CalWIN. Click here for instructions and more information about this secure website.
Warning: There are reports of a scam where ads are posted on the Internet offering help to fill out SNAP or CalFresh (formerly Food Stamp) applications by clicking a link. This scam asks for your personal information in order to steal your identity and access your bank accounts and credit cards. Do not provide this information. Neither SNAP, CalFresh nor DSS employees offer on-line assistance in this manner. Never provide any personal information to an unsecured website.
CalFresh benefits can only be used for food and for plants and seeds to grow food for your household to eat. CalFresh cannot be used for non-food items.
San Luis Obispo County issues CalFresh benefits through a debit card called an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. Most retailers and some Farmers' Markets accept the EBT card. Click here to go to the EBT website to locate, by your Zip code, food stores and businesses that accept EBT cards for food purchases. EBT has many advantages. These include:
- Your EBT card can hold both Cash Aid and CalFresh benefits
- Your EBT card can easily be replaced in the local office if you lose it
- Use of the EBT card does not draw attention to you in the checkout line
- A transaction history and current balance are provided with each transaction you make
- Benefits are automatically deposited to your card account each month that you qualify.
- If you are over 60 years old, disabled or homeless, you can use your CalFresh EBT card to buy prepared meals through the Restaurant Meals Program.
- As a safety measure, you are required to enter a Personal Identification Number (PIN) each time you use your card
- You can access your benefits through Point of Sale (POS) devices located in grocery stores and retail food merchants locally or in other counties and states.
- You can now use your CalFresh EBT card to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables at some San Luis Obispo County Farmers' Markets.
You can apply for CalFresh at the same time as applying for cash assistance. Your CalFresh worker will explain the program rules. The worker will ask for proof of the information that you have provided. If your family has little or no money and needs help right away it may be possible to receive your food stamps within 3 days.
SNAP Eligibility Screening On-Line
The USDA SNAP website has an online Pre-Screening Tool to help you learn whether your household qualifies for federal food benefits and how much help you could get. The screening tool takes about ten minutes and urges you to apply for benefits at your local SNAP office. The process is anonymous, only first names and ages are entered to complete the screening.
The site advises that you complete an application even when it shows that you may not be eligible. This is important because California has programs that help people that other states do not. The site also provides a listing of other programs you may be eligible for and links to information about each program.
Click on the web address: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Pre-Screening Eligibility Tool to use the tool.
To find more information about SNAP click on http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap
Groceries & Meals
Even if you are not a beneficiary of CalFresh and have an immediate need for food or a meal, please click on this link to the SLO Food Bank website for information about where and when you can find food and grocery distribution locations in SLO county.
Click here for SNAP Statistics.
Click here to go to the Department of Social Services home page