California Food Assistance

Food Stamps * Food Banks * Food Pantries * Soup Kitchens * WIC
School Meals * Special Milk * Summer Food * Senior Nutrition

In the State of California, there are many sources for help with food. CalFresh Program, California Food Assistance Program (CFAP), food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens are all helping residents in need to cope with hunger and food insecurity.

California Food Assistance Program (CFAP)

The federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a central food assistance program in California.  In addition to the CalFresh Program, the State of California offers a state-funded food assistance program for eligible immigrants – called California Food Stamp Program (CFAP).

The CFAP is food assistance program for eligible immigrants who do not currently qualify for the federally funded CalFresh food stamps.

In general, eligible for CFAP benefits are non-citizens who are Legal Permanent Residents (LPR) who do not qualify or are no longer federally eligible for food assistance programs.

Other CFAP eligibility includes cases where the sponsor of the non-citizen has died or become disabled.

Check details of the eligibility requirements with your local County Welfare Department

California Food Assistance Program



Learn more about

SNAP benefits a.k.a. CalFresh benefits a.k.a. Food Stamps.

Who is eligible for CalFresh benefits (Food Stamps) in California?

How to apply for California Food Assistance?

How does California Department of Social Services (CDSS) determine eligibility?

Approved! When and how do I get the Food Stamps benefits?

How much Food Stamps benefits do participants receive per month?

How and where to use Food Stamps Benefits in California?


CalFresh Program

CalFresh Program is the main California food assistance program that is helping residents in need to cope with hunger and food insecurity.

CalFresh Program is also known on the federal level as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), but most people still call it the Food Stamps program.

As a cornerstone in California Food Assistance, the CalFresh is run by the California Department of Social Services (CDSS).

On a lower level, the CalFresh is implemented by local County Welfare Departments, which are responsible for processing the CalFresh certification of eligible households

If you are California resident and in need of food assistance find out if you qualify for CalFresh benefits by contacting your local County Welfare Department.

If you qualify and you are approved for CalFresh, you will start getting CalFresh benefits a.k.a. Food stamps on a monthly basis.

The monthly CalFresh food assistance benefits are called allotments and are deposited in dollars into the Electronic Benefits Card (EBT) accounts of each beneficiary.

This is done each month on a certain date following the Benefits Issuance Schedule.

Each EBT account comes with a bank debit card that can be used at any of the California food stamps approved grocery stores.

According to the California Department of Social Services, the CalFresh Program helps improve the health and well-being of qualified California households.

Learn more about what kind of food you can buy using your CalFresh benefits…

Find your California Food Stamps Stores, where California Food Stamps recipients can buy the food they need using their California Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card.

CalFresh | Eligibility | Apply | Approval | Benefits


Approx. of the total California population received Food Stamp Benefits in 2018

Recipients in June, 2018 of Food Stamps (SNAP) Benefits in California

Recipients in June, 2017 of Food Stamp (SNAP) Benefits in California

California Food Assistance Benefits

Find more on what kind of food you can buy using your California Food Assistance benefits…

Food Assistance Program | Eligibility | Apply | Approval | Benefits

Food Banks in California

California food assistance banks play an important role in the overall effort to end hunger and food insecurity throughout the State.

The food banks in California collect food from various sources like wholesale organizations, grocery stores, and farms that have food in excess and are willing to donate.

The food banks then sort store and distribute donated food to local soup kitchens, shelters, and food pantries.

California Association of Food Banks (CAFB) is such a non-profit organization that works to alleviate hunger in California.

California Food Banks

California Food Banks

Food Pantries in California

California food assistance pantries offer food directly to people that need it and who have means to cook it.

They usually receive food from local food banks and in turn distribute it to low-income individuals and households at no cost.

Food pantries are typically located in facilities where received food can be stored and handled in a safe and sanitary manner.

Each food pantry serves a designated local area, and most of them require prior registration and approval before food can be distributed to a particular individual or a family.

California Food Pantries

Soup Kitchens in California

Soup kitchens serve cooked meals on-site to needy people at no cost. Like food pantries, they normally receive their food from local food banks.

Soup kitchens take care mostly of homeless people and people who do not have the means to cook for themselves.

They require storage, cleaning, and cooking equipment as they have to do food preparation, serving, and cleaning after the meals.

Food pantries are typically located in facilities where received food can be stored and handled in a safe and sanitary manner.

Each food pantry serves a designated local area, and most of them require prior registration and approval before food can be served to a particular individual or a family. 

California Soup Kitchens

WIC Program in California

California Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides healthy foods, breastfeeding support, nutrition education, health care referrals to California pregnant women, new mothers, infants and young children during times of important growth.

California Women, Infants, and Children Program


School Meals in California

Schools meals in California are offered mainly through National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. The California school meals programs make nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free meals available to school children each school day in the year.

School meals nutritional standards are based on the recommendation from the Institute of Medicine and U.S. Government and teachers have reported that students perform better in class if they get regular meals. Children getting school breakfast also had significantly reduced absence and tardiness rates, according to a Tufts University study.

California School Lunch Program | California School Breakfast Program


Special Milk Program in California

California Special Milk Program offers milk to children in schools, childcare institutions, and eligible camps. Any child in a school or institution that participates in the Special Milk Program can get milk. Schools may elect to offer free milk to low-income children. To qualify for California Special Milk, the child must be a resident of the State of California.

California Special Milk Program


Summer Food Program in California

Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides free meals and snacks to help low-income California children get nutritious meals in the summer time.  The SFSP is a federal program that provides grants to local sponsors who want to combine a food service with a summer activity program.

The funding provided by SFSP ensures that California children in low-income areas continue to receive nutritious meals during long school vacations when they do not have access to school lunch or breakfast.

California Summer Food Service Program


Senior Nutrition in California

California Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) provides low-income seniors with special checks to buy fresh, nutritious fruits, vegetables, and herbs from authorized farmers’ markets. To qualify for California senior nutrition special checks, the applicants must be 60 years of age or older, and their gross household income must not exceed certain limits.

An application must be completed for each person in the household that wants to apply for the SFMNP benefits.  Once approved, each beneficiary must reapply every year to continue participating in the California Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. Learn more about how senior nutrition program works.

California Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program

Sources: State Agencies, FNS, USDA