CalFresh: Healthy Living. University of California.

Frequently Asked Questions about CalFresh

How does the CalFresh program work?

If you apply and are accepted into the CalFresh program, then you will receive an EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card in the mail.  This card works a lot like an ATM card, but funding is allocated to this card from the government.  You can use the card at any major chain grocery store, Isla Vista Food Cooperative, Isla Vista Market, the Arbor, or Tenaya Market.

If I apply for CalFresh would I be taking this resource away from someone who needs it more?

Calfresh is an entitlement program, which means everyone that qualifies and applies receives benefits. Enough funding is allocated to the program to support everyone who is eligible. This funding often goes unused. Only 72% of Californians that are eligible sign up for the program, which is the fifth-lowest rate of participation in the nation.

For the income eligibility, does CalFresh only look at my own income or also my family’s finances?

CalFresh only takes into account the finances of yourself and anyone that you regularly share a grocery budget with, shop with, and prepare food with.  If you and your housemates share occasional meals together you can still apply to CalFresh as an individual.  You only have to include additional people in your household if most of your meals are prepared together.

When should I apply for CalFresh and are there any deadlines?

There is no deadline for applying CalFresh and you can apply whenever it works for you.  It can take up to 30 days from when you apply to receive CalFresh, though there is also an expedited process if you are in an emergency situation, please contact Basic Needs if you want to apply for your application to be expedited. Please note that if you are outside of Santa Barbara County and planning to move back soon, the best time to apply is within the month that your new lease starts or that you plan to move in.  So if you are moving back in September, you can apply in Santa Barbara County as of September 1st.  Prior to that, you would need to apply in the county you are currently residing and then request to have your case transferred when you move.  Basic Needs advocates can assist you to apply in any county.

If I am approved, where can I use CalFresh, and for what?

You can use CalFresh at any major chain grocery store as well as several local grocery stores such as Isla Vista Food Cooperative, Isla Vista Market, Tenaya Market (the grocery store at the San Joaquin Apartments), and the Arbor by the campus library.  You can also use your CalFresh at any of the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Markets ( including the market at Camino Real Marketplace on Sundays from 10am - 2pm.  When you use your CalFresh at the Farmers’ Market a program called “Market Match” lets you get $2 worth of produce for every $1 of CalFresh you use.  Just visit the Farmers Market information booth when you get to the market.

Is CalFresh counted towards taxes/taxable income?

No, CalFresh is not taxable income and will not affect your or your family’s taxes.  CalFresh will also not affect your financial aid.

Do you have more questions?

Please email Basic Needs at, call them at 805-893-2786, or visit and use the live chat feature in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.