Each year millions of allocated funds go unused because people who qualify for CalFresh don’t apply to receive their benefits. Misperceptions and outdated or incorrect information are often the barriers between many people and the assistance available to them.
We chatted with the Food Bank’s CalFresh team to dispel the most common myths about this life-changing benefit.
CalFresh (federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) is a government program that helps families and individuals buy the food they need for healthy lives. CalFresh benefits are loaded monthly on an EBT card, which works like a debit card at most grocery stores, online and at many farmers’ markets.
CalFresh is the nation’s first defense against hunger. It increases food-buying power, provides access to healthy and nutritious food and helps people stretch their budgets by freeing up money for other necessities such as medical bills, utilities, and rent.
Now, let’s bust some myths:
MYTH: CalFresh isn’t for me.
FACT: CalFresh is for everyone—employed and unemployed individuals, families, seniors, students, people with disabilities, those experiencing homelessness, and active and non-active military personnel. If you’re within the income limits, you may be eligible.
MYTH: If I enroll in CalFresh, I will be taking benefits from someone else who needs it more.
FACT: All people who apply and are eligible will receive benefits. You will not be “taking someone else’s place” because the USDA sets aside funds for the program. Actually, millions of dollars go unused every year because people don’t realize they qualify for benefits.
MYTH: If I receive Social Security Retirement or Disability benefits, I am not eligible for CalFresh.
FACT: Social Security (SSA) benefit and Disability (SSDI and SDI) benefit recipients may be eligible for CalFresh. In fact, households with people aged 60 or older, or people with a disability, don’t have to pass the gross income test. Californians receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) also receive a state-funded Supplemental Security Payment (SSP) that includes a food benefit. SSI/SSP recipients are therefore NOT eligible for CalFresh unless the SSP amount is $0 as a result of state budget reductions. However, other household members who are not receiving SSI/SSP might still be eligible.
MYTH: I cannot receive CalFresh if I own a home or car or have a savings account.
FACT: Basic CalFresh eligibility is usually determined based on income, not assets. You can own a home or car and have a savings and/or retirement account, and you may still qualify for CalFresh.
MYTH: CalFresh is only for mothers or families with children.
FACT: CalFresh is for everyone who meets the eligibility guidelines. Fathers, single adults, people with disabilities, homeless individuals, and people aged 60 or older may qualify.
MYTH: I don’t support CalFresh because the only people that use it are on welfare.
FACT: You do not have to be on welfare to use the CalFresh program. Living in the Bay Area is expensive! People who are employed but don’t make enough to cover all living expenses can qualify for CalFresh (eligibility depends on the number of people in the household and monthly income).
MYTH: Increasing CalFresh participation will cost California taxpayers more money.
FACT: This is a common misconception; people are surprised to learn CalFresh is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Every $1 in CalFresh benefits generates $1.79 in local economic activity.
MYTH: CalFresh can only be used at the grocery store.
FACT: CalFresh can be used at most farmers’ markets, and many markets offer free farmers’ market bucks with Market Match. CalFresh can also be used online for delivery and pick-up through stores, including Safeway, Amazon and Target.
MYTH: CalFresh only provides food benefits.
FACT: CalFresh recipients may qualify for a variety of discounts or free offers at local and national retailers, including:
- Discounted Amazon Prime (more than half off!)
- Free or reduced internet (subject to availability and approval)
- Free or reduced entrance to museums (our favorites include the California Academy of Sciences and San Francisco Zoo–both only $3 with an EBT card!)
- Free or reduced cell phone service with Lifeline
- 50% off at mobile farmers market with Fresh Approach (only in Antioch and Richmond currently)
MYTH: Signing up for CalFresh is too hard/time-consuming/confusing.
FACT: The Food Bank’s bilingual CalFresh team is available five days a week to help people determine if they are eligible and navigate the county application process. Last year, the Food Bank helped over 1,500 people apply for CalFresh benefits.
Still not sure if CalFresh is for you? Learn more and contact our CalFresh team today. We are here to help you.