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County Urges College Students to Sign Up for Food Benefits Before June 10 Deadline

The eligibility rules for CalFresh Food, a state program to help people pay for food and groceries, are set to change next month, making it harder for college students to qualify

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. — The County of Santa Clara encourages college students who are eligible for CalFresh Food benefits to apply before June 10, when eligibility rules that were expanded during COVID-19 will revert to pre-pandemic levels.

CalFresh Food, the state’s version of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, helps low-income individuals and families afford food and groceries. That includes college students, many of whom experience food insecurity.

Before the pandemic, college students who worked 20 hours or more per week were eligible for CalFresh Food. If they participated in the Federal Work-Study Program, however, they qualified regardless of how many hours they worked.

As part of the government’s COVID-19 response, CalFresh Food requirements were loosened so that merely being eligible for the Federal Work-Study Program, and not necessarily participating, qualifies students for CalFresh Food. Students are also eligible for CalFresh Food, under the pandemic rules, if they do not receive any financial support from their families toward their education.

With those two exemptions to the usual rules slated to disappear, it is important for students who meet those criteria to apply for CalFresh Food now.

“The County urges students who are eligible for CalFresh Food under the expanded pandemic rules to apply for the program before June 10,” said Angela Shing, Director of the Department of Employment and Benefit Services within the County’s Social Services Agency. “Food insecurity is a serious problem that affects far too many young people in Santa Clara County. Students need all the help they can get to begin their adult lives and prepare for their careers.”

The number of CalFresh Food enrollees has grown significantly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and food insecurity threatens Silicon Valley residents of all ages. About one in 20 residents in Santa Clara County were enrolled in CalFresh Food last year. According to Joint Venture Silicon Valley, 42% of children in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties were at risk of food insecurity in 2022.

You are subject to special rules for college students if you are:

  • Between 18 and 49 years old
  • Enrolled at last half-time at an institution of higher learning
  • Physically and mentally fit for employment

To be eligible for CalFresh Food, students who meet those criteria must be employed or self-employed at least 20 hours per week. There are, however, exemptions from this work requirement. Common exemptions include:

  • Participating in the Federal Work-Study Program
  • Having parental control over a dependent child under the age of 6
  • Having parental control over a dependent child between the ages of 6 and 11, without having adequate childcare services
  • Being a single parent with a dependent child under 12 years of age
  • Participating in CalWORKS

During the pandemic, those exemptions were expanded to include being eligible for the Federal Work-Study Program and not receiving family contributions to education costs.

Those who apply for CalFresh Food by June 10 will have their benefits for a year, so long as they continue to qualify during that period. CalFresh Food benefits range from $23 to $234 a month, depending on an enrollee’s circumstances.

CalFresh Food Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards can be used at grocery stores, farmers markets, and to purchase groceries online for home delivery through Amazon, Walmart, and participating Albertsons, Safeway and Vons locations. In addition, the County’s Restaurant Meals Program allows CalFresh Food clients who are disabled, homeless, or 60 years and older to use EBT cards to buy prepared meals at participating restaurants.

To apply for CalFresh Food, go to BenefitsCal, the state’s benefits portal. To find out if you are eligible for the Federal Work-Study Program, contact your college administration.

For more information, you can call the County’s Department of Employment and Benefits Services for assistance at 408-758-3800 or visit the County’s CalFresh webpage in EnglishSpanish or Vietnamese. You are also welcome to visit the County’s Benefits Service Center at 1867 Senter Road in San José, the North County center at W. Middlefield Road in Mountain View, or the South County center at 379 Tomkins Court in Gilroy.


The County of Santa Clara government serves a diverse, multicultural population of 1.9 million residents in Santa Clara County, Calif., making it more populous than 14 states in the United States. The County provides essential services to its residents, including public health protection, environmental stewardship, medical services through the County of Santa Clara Health System, child and adult protection services, homelessness prevention and solutions, roads, park services, libraries, emergency response to disasters, protection of minority communities and those under threat, access to a fair criminal justice system, and many other public benefits.

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Media Contact: Quan Vu / Aaron Kinney, Office of Communications and Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119, [email protected]

Posted: May 17, 2023

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