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Eligibility Requirements

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Food Stamps

Individuals who purchase and prepare food together are one household for food stamp purposes and must have their eligibility determined as a group/household. There are situations where some individuals must be included in the same household regardless of how they buy and cook their food. Examples include parents and children under age 22, spouses, and adults exercising parental control over minors in the home.

Below are some of the basic Food Stamp Program rules:


Must be a resident of San Diego County. Persons without a permanent residence or a fixed mailing address can get food stamps as long as they are San Diego County residents.


The identity of the person applying must be verified. Identity may be verified through a variety of documents, including but not limited to, Department of Motor Vehicles ID or driver’s license, work or school ID, voter registration card or birth certificate.

Citizenship Status

U. S. citizens and many non-citizens are eligible for food stamps. Even if some members of the household are not eligible, those who are may be able to get food stamp benefits.

Social Security Numbers

Individuals, including children, applying for food stamp benefits, must either provide a Social Security number or proof they have applied for a Social Security number. Household members that are not eligible for food stamps do not have to provide or apply for a Social Security number.

Resources (Assets)

Bank accounts, cash, real estate, personal property, etc. will be considered in determining whether a household is eligible to food stamp benefits. The food stamp worker will explain which assets are counted.

Households may have up to $2,000 in countable assets. If at least one person is age 60 or older or disabled, the household may have up to $3,000 in countable assets. Individuals who receive CalWORKs or General Relief automatically meet the asset limit.

Assets that are not counted include:

  • Home and surrounding property,
  • Household goods and personal effects,
  • One burial plot per household member,
  • Retirement accounts,
  • Cash value of life insurance policies, and
  • Vehicles.


The Food Stamp Program counts most types of income to determine if a household is eligible. A household must have a total gross monthly income less than or equal to 130% of the federal poverty level and total net monthly income less than or equal to 100% of the federal poverty level to be eligible for food stamp benefits. See the Food Stamps Income Limits chart.

  • Gross income means a household’s total income before excluding deductions allowed under the program (see deductions below).
  • Net income means “gross income” minus allowable deductions.

Elderly/disabled households only have to meet the net monthly income standard.

See the Food Stamps Income Limits chart.


Deductions are expenses allowed under the program that can be subtracted from the household’s monthly gross income to determine eligibility and the amount of the food stamp benefits that will be received monthly. Food stamp deductions include:

  • 20% deduction from earned income,
  • Standard deduction of $141 for households with 1-3 members,
  • Standard deduction of $153 for a household with 4 members,
  • Standard deduction of $179 for a household with 5 members,
  • Standard deduction of $205 for a household with 6 or more members,
  • Cost of child care when needed to work, seek work or attend training for work,
  • Medical expenses exceeding $35 for elderly or disabled household members,
  • Court ordered child support payments paid to non-household members, and
  • A portion of shelter (rent or mortgage) and utility costs.

Work Rules

Most able-bodied adults without dependent children between the ages of 18 and 60 must register for work or be working at least 20 hours per week or an average of 80 hours per month to receive food stamp benefits.

To find out if you may be eligible to receive food stamps, you can complete the Supplemental Assistance Program (SNAP) Pre-screening Eligibility Tool.


If you have any questions, call ACCESS toll-free at 866-262-9881, or e-mail ACCESS.