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Student Eligibility

Things to consider before applying for CalFresh:

  • Out-of-state students can still be eligible for CalFresh Foods if they are residing in California for the school year.
  • You have the right to apply for CalFresh even if it seems like you may not be eligible.
  • If an individual in your household is physically/mentally unable to work and/or is receiving disability benefits from any source, they only need to meet the basic eligibility qualifications below.  
  • If you would like to review eligibility via our CalFresh Prescreen Survey, you can! If you have questions, please contact our CalFresh Outreach team at Calfreshoutreach@ucmerced.edu.  

Basic CalFresh Eligibility  

  1. Citizenship (Multiple Qualifying Statuses)  
  2. Household Size 
  3. Income  
  4. Meal Plan Status 
  5. Student Exemption 

Citizenship  

A household can potentially qualify for CalFresh if at least one person (including children) is under the following citizenship statues: 
  • US citizen or permanent resident​ 
  • Have refugee status, asylum, or parolee status​ 
  • Have, or is applying for, a U-Visa or T-Visa​ 
  • Is an applicant for VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) relief​ 
  • Or is a Cuban or Haitian entrant 
  • Is an Afghan entering with special Immigrant VISA (SIV), (SQ/SI) Parole, or other forms of humanitarian parole 
  • Is Hmong/Laotian or American Indian born in Canada
 
Mixed-status families can still apply for CalFresh if they have eligible members in their households! The California Department of Social Services is not allowed to share immigration information with federal agencies and the information is kept strictly confidential. For example, undocumented parents can apply for benefits for their citizen children.
 
For a full list of qualifying immigration statuses, and information regarding Public Charge or other FAQ’s visit GetCalFresh.org.  
International, DACA, and DREAM students will not be eligible, even with a work VISA/Social Security Number. Reach out to our team about other food support services or visit our pages here. Please also visit our Services for Undocumented Students page for more resources, such as free legal services.  

Household 

A household is defined as a person living alone (yourself) or a group of people (including yourself) currently living together who buy and prepare food together. 
Example: Roommates/housemates with whom you buy and prepare more than half of your meals together. 
Mandatory Households: Individuals that must be included in your household, when currently living together, even if you do not buy and prepare food together. The following individuals must be included in your household: 
  • Parents (only if you are under the age of 22 and currently live with them)  
  • Children under the age of 22 
  • Spouses 
  • Unmarried couple living together with a common child 

Income 

Your household must be under the gross monthly income limit in the "Income Guidelines" table below. 
 

Income Guidelines

October 1, 2021 - September 30, 2022

Household Size

Gross Monthly Income

Allotment

1
$2,148
$20 - $250
2
$2,904
$20 - $459
3
$3,660
$20 - $658
4
$4,418
$20 - $835
5
$5,174
$20 - $992
6
$5,930
$20 - $1,190
7
$6,688
$20 - $1,316
8
$7,444
$20 - $1,504
*The maximum allotment is not guaranteed.

Meal Plans 

Your household must not be on a meal plan or be provided with less than half (10 or less) meals per week from another source. UC Merced Students who live on campus are required to enroll in the Unlimited Meal Plan and are therefore ineligible while residing on campus; unless a meal plan exemption for extraordinary circumstances has been submitted and approved.
 
For more information on campus meal plans, please visit the Dining Services Website. Or contact Dining Services at dining@ucmerced.edu.  

Student Eligibility  

Students must meet the Basic Eligibility listed above AND must currently meet at least one of the following student requirements (aka student exemptions) unless they do not meet the State Definition of student or are mentally or physically unable to work. 
  • State definition of student: Between 18 and 49 years old, physically and mentally "fit" (without a physical or mental disability), and enrolled at least half-time in for-credit classes at an institution of higher education. Individuals who do not meet the state definition of "student," do not have to meet the student requirement listed below.
  • Physically or mentally "fit": If an individual in a household is physically/mentally unable to work and/or is receiving disability benefits from any source, they do not need to meet the student eligibility qualifications listed below. However, they will be required to provide verification of disability. If any questions arise regarding verifying disability, please contact the Merced Human Services Agency.
 
Student Requirement (Exemption):
  • Receiving California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) or Tribal TANF
  • Expanded list of Local Programs that require employment here
Eligibility
Approved for TANF - funded Cal Grant A/B
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a time-limited federal program purposed with helping families achieve economic self-sufficiency. A student receiving TANF funded Cal Grant A or B meets the student requirement and may qualify for CalFresh.
 
A letter from CSAC will be sent to students through email, or mail, informing them that they have received a Cal Grant payment which includes funds from the TANF program. The email is sent by studentsupport@csac.ca.gov to the email address used to apply for FAFSA - for most students.
Apply
Working 20 hours/week or 80 hours/month
  • Students working under Campus Student Employment do not need to meet the 20 hours/week or 80 hours/month limit. Campus Student Employment is as a separate student qualification for CalFresh.
  • Students may qualify for CalFresh if they work an off-campus job at least 20 hours a week or 80 hours a month.
  • Make sure income is below the income limit for your household.
  • Verification example: Paystubs that show work of 20 hours/week or 80 hours/month.
Application Process
Parenting Students
  • Responsible for the care of a household member under the age of 6
  • Responsible for the care of a household member under the age of 12 without adequate childcare
  • A single parent responsible for the care of a household member under the age of 12
 
If you yourself are not a US Citizen or Legal Permanent resident, but your child is, you can still apply for benefits for them!
  • Make sure you meet the prorated income limit for your household.
  • Social Services will only consider the income proportional to the number of eligible members in the household.
 
Example: Both parents are not eligible, but 1 child is a citizen, so only 33% of total income is counted and held to the income guideline of a 1-person household.
Benefits
Campus Student Employment
  • Students employed by the University of California, Merced are considered to be participating in a Local Program that Increases Employability ("LPIE") and may qualify for CalFresh.
  • Campus Student Employment includes Federal Work Study (FWS) jobs.
  • Note that income from Federal Work Study is exempt (does not count) toward CalFresh benefit amount.
Eligibility
Research and Teaching Assistantship Programs
Students hired for a research or teaching assistant position (GSR’s/TA’s/TF’s), whether paid or unpaid, or part of a training program, are considered to be participating in a Local Program that Increases Employability ("LPIE") and may qualify for CalFresh.
 
Verification examples: Proof of employment as a research/teaching assistant via offer letter, email, or paystubs.
Eligibility
College Corps
Students participating in College Corps are considered to be participating in a Local Program that Increases Employability ("LPIE") and may qualify for CalFresh. Students will still need to meet other CalFresh eligibility criteria, such as citizenship requirements. College Corps income is not considered employment and is exempt grant income.
Eligibility
Student Success Interns (SSI)
Students participating in the Student Success Internship (SSI) program are considered to be participating in a Local Program that Increases Employability ("LPIE") and may qualify for CalFresh.
Eligibility
Fiat Lux or Guardian Scholars
Students participating in the Fiat Lux or Guardian Scholars programs are considered to be participating in a Local Program that Increases Employability ("LPIE") and may qualify for CalFresh.
Eligibility
Teaching Credential Program
Students participating in a UC Merced Teaching Credential Program are considered to be participating in a Local Program that Increases Employability ("LPIE") and may qualify for CalFresh.
 
Verification examples: Program offer letters or emails.
Eligibility
Graduate Degree Program that requires Employment
Graduate students enrolled in certain degree programs that require an Employment and Training (E&T) component are considered to be participating in a Local Program that Increases Employability ("LPIE") and may qualify for CalFresh. See the list of UC Merced eligible campus programs here.
 
E&T definition:
  • Defined as a service, activity, or program designed to help CalFresh recipients gain skills, training, or work experience
  • Activity must be required of students and be an ongoing component
 
Don't see your degree program on the list, but believe it requires an E&T component? Email calfreshoutreach@ucmerced.edu to see if your program can be approved as a LPIE program.
Eligibility
Federal Work Study
  • Students may qualify for CalFresh if they have been offered and accepted their Federal Work Study (FWS) award and expect to work a FWS job or are already working a FWS job.
  • Working a FWS job also meets the "Campus Student Employment" student exemption.
  • Note that income from Federal Work Study is exempt (does not count) toward CalFresh benefit amount.

Be sure to remember your Student Exemption when communicating with the County during your interview. Please see our Verification Forms page to locate common verification forms.