In the past, Harry and Dara put a lot of attention into meals and nutrition for their kids and then their grandkids. But they’re finding it a lot harder to give that same kind of important attention to their own nutritional needs—especially as their doctors have been recommending additional dietary changes and restrictions for their aging bodies.
It has gotten even more challenging as the economic climate has left them feeling the need to tighten their budgets and reconsider their priority spending. It hadn’t occurred to them that financial assistance might be an option until they heard about CalFresh. Since they applied and got involved, they’ve been able to make their health and nutrition a priority without sacrificing in other areas of life.
American food stamps of old were officially printed to be used in stores and exchanged similar to paper money. Like many of our financial, economic, and technological systems, though, food stamps have changed, too. In fact, the program carries an entirely different name: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) really is a snap. Easy-to-use debit cards are refilled automatically for qualified applicants and can be used where credit cards are accepted.
Financial nutrition assistance may feel like just one more hurdle to independent living, especially for seniors who are unfamiliar with the process. If you’re wondering, “How do seniors qualify for food stamps—or SNAP—in California?” you’ll find helpful information and resources here. Let’s look more closely at eligibility requirements for seniors in California and how to apply.
How Do Food Stamps for Seniors in California Work?
SNAP is federally funded but managed and distributed by state departments. In California, the program is called CalFresh, and you’ll look to county offices for local information, to apply, and to manage benefits. If eligible, you’ll receive an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card, which works like a debit card and automatically has a monetary value based on need transferred to it each month.
Who Qualifies for Food Stamps in California?
Eligibility for SNAP and CalFresh is based largely on income, and the amount of financial assistance you may be eligible for is based on income, as well. Seniors (over 60) and individuals living with disabilities are offered more leniency—compared to the traditional requirements—in terms of the amount of financial resources they can hold and still be eligible for CalFresh benefits. And although meal assistance generally renders an individual ineligible for SNAP benefits, seniors can still be eligible even if they get their meals from a federally subsidized facility or from other low-income living facilities.
One important fact to remember, though, is that if you already receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in California, you are not eligible for SNAP CalFresh benefits because the two would overlap based on need.
Whereas most applicants must be able to meet both a monthly gross income requirement and a monthly net income requirement, older adults and adults living with disabilities need to meet only the monthly net income requirement to be eligible. This net income assessment takes into account gross income against certain deductions. For seniors, medical expenses over a certain amount can be deducted from one’s monthly income. Costs for housing expenses, including rent, mortgage, and utilities, can be deducted for any amount that is more than half of the net income.
After you submit your CalFresh application, your county’s department of social services will be able to determine whether your net income qualifies you for flexible SNAP benefits. Even if you’re unsure about whether you’ll qualify for CalFresh benefits or not, it’s worth reaching out and completing a California food stamps application if you think it might benefit your life and empower your finances.
How to Apply for CalFresh Benefits
It may be easiest to get your CalFresh application started online. You’ll need to provide:
- Information about all the people in your household
- Your income from all sources
- Your monthly housing expenses
- Some resources you own that have significant value
- Documentation of some of your bills
If you log in with an email address, you’ll be able to save your progress and continue with your application at another time. This may be particularly helpful if you find that you require assistance from a friend or family member, or even a local advocacy organization that offers application support.
Typically, once you’ve filed a CalFresh application, you can expect to have an interview and give proof of income and deductions. If seniors are unable to visit their local SNAP office in person, the interview may be waived in favor of a scheduled telephone interview or a home visit.
If you would prefer to apply in person, you can visit your local SNAP office to begin an application. Here, you can locate your nearest office by county. For more immediate assistance, you can call California’s SNAP hotline at 877-847-3663.
Your Health and Nutrition Can Be a Priority and Can Turn Your Life Around
Of the many changes that come with age, continuing to evolve diet and nutrition is a really important one because it underlies our general health and well-being. What we eat can have the power to sap our energy and aggravate illness and discomfort, or the power to lift us up, giving us energy and a whole new lease on life.
A great place to start would be with talking to a doctor or a senior nutritionist about the right food choices for you or an aging loved one. The right food choices can stimulate a waning appetite, and they can boost memory and cognitive function, among many other benefits. In addition to financial assistance, programs such as PACE that offers nutrition and meal assistance, as well as grocery delivery options can help pave the way for energizing and worry-free meals every day.
If supplemental nutrition assistance might make a difference in your quality of life and financial stress, it’s a good idea to apply for CalFresh and see what the benefits can do for you. Together with a fresh approach to meals and nutrition in general, you or an aging loved one may get an inspiring boost in your health and energy.
If you have more questions about how CalFresh and other local programs can help California seniors, reach out to Institute on Aging now. We are committed to helping aging adults and caregivers thrive by considering life holistically and providing resources that fit each individual best.