CalFresh Eligibility for California College Students Is Changing. Here’s What You Need to Know.

CalFresh eligibility for college students was expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those rules expire June 10, but Californians still have time to apply for the benefits for at least one more year.
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  • Two COVID-19 pandemic exemptions for CalFresh benefits will end June 10.
  • The exemptions extended CalFresh to California students who were work-study eligible or had families who could not contribute anything financially to their education.
  • Students are being encouraged to sign up for the program before the deadline to ensure they are eligible to receive benefits.

In less than 50 days, California’s CalFresh food program, also known as the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, will change its eligibility requirements for college students.

On June 10, the program will end two temporary student exemptions that expanded CalFresh to college students who were eligible for work-study and to students whose families could not financially support their education.

Through the program, students can receive approximately $230 a month to use at grocery stores and farmer’s markets. Eligible students are being encouraged to sign up before the June 10 deadline to maximize the number of benefits available to them.

Data from the California Policy Lab for the 2019-2020 academic year showed that 10.2% of California Community College students (approximately 230,000 students), 11.8% of the University of California (UC) undergraduate students (around 28,000 students), and 4.0% of UC graduate students (about 2,500 students) were enrolled in CalFresh.

For graduate students, CalFresh provided the most support at UC San Francisco, with 32.9% of students enrolled in the program. For undergraduate students, UC Merced and UC Santa Barbara had the highest levels of enrollment, with 21.5% and 21.0%, respectively.

What Is Changing in CalFresh?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, two temporary student exemptions expanded CalFresh eligibility to college students eligible for work-study and students with an Expected Family Contribution of zero dollars for financial aid.

Students included in these exemptions who want to sign up for CalFresh can do so through June 9, 2023. Starting June 10, students who are new to the program or recertifying their eligibility will have to meet one of the permanent eligibility requirements.

Qualifications for Permanent CalFresh Eligibility

Permanent student exemptions include:

  • Approved for work-study and anticipating work
  • Not half-time or more due to taking non-credit courses
  • TANF-funded Cal Grant A or B
  • Working 20 hours/week or a total of 80 hours/month
  • Disabled or physically or mentally unable to work
  • Does not expect to be enrolled next term
  • Responsible for the care of a dependent under 6
  • Responsible for the care of a dependent under 12 without adequate childcare
  • Single parent responsible for the care of a dependent under 12
  • Receiving CalWORKs
  • Part of a Local Program that Increases Employability
  • Is age 17 or younger or age 50 or older
  • Participating in an on-the-job training program

What Happens After the June 10 Deadline?

Beginning June 10, 2023, new students applying for the program must meet the criteria for one of the permanent student exemptions. Students who are already a part of the CalFresh program are not required to do anything and will continue to receive benefits until they are required to recertify.

Students who qualify for CalFresh under one of the temporary student exemptions will be ineligible for the program at their next recertification beginning July 1, 2023, if they do not fall under one of the permanent student exemptions.

If a student meets the current eligibility requirements prior to June 10, they can sign up for and receive CalFresh benefits up until they are required to recertify, typically after a year.

Does California Have Other Benefits Programs for College Students?

Many community colleges and universities across California have food pantries and other food assistance programs for students who need extra support. Both the University of California and California State University systems have compiled resources for students who are facing food and housing insecurity.