Hunger affects everyone and nutrition is an essential part of a full and healthy life. Regardless of income, immigration status, race, or ethnicity, every child, adult, and family should be able to access the food that they need. According to data from the UCLA California Health Interview Survey, 45% percent of undocumented Californians and 64% of undocumented children are currently affected by food insecurity. Hunger has serious consequences for health, financial security, and children’s long-term success. In California, one of the wealthiest economies in the world, these food inequities must be addressed.  

The California Immigrant Policy Center was founded 25 years ago in response to cruel policies that aimed to exclude immigrants from the social safety net, including nutrition programs. In 1996, Congress passed the Personal Responsibility & Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), which restricted SNAP (“food stamps”) eligibility for immigrants across the country. In response to this “welfare reform,” CIPC partnered with advocates across the state to lead campaigns that resulted in the creation of the California Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which provides state-funded food stamp benefits to qualified immigrants who are ineligible for federal food stamps. 

Today, CFAP, a state-funded version of CalFresh, serves about 42,000 “qualified immigrants” who lost federal SNAP eligibility due to federal welfare reform legislation in 1996. Most of these people are lawful permanent residents (green card holders) of less than 5 years. Aside from being state-funded rather than federally funded, CFAP and CalFresh benefits are the same. Like CalFresh, CFAP is issued through the same Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card and can be used to buy groceries at participating businesses. Current CFAP participants may also be lawful temporary residents, victims of trafficking, U visa/interim relief applicants, or U visa holders. 

However,  many low-income Californians lack access to CalFresh and CFAP, the country’s largest and most effective anti-hunger programs, due to the legacy of discriminatory policies in our safety net. Federal laws exclude undocumented immigrants, DACA recipients, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and certain visa holders from CalFresh, but California has a long history of recognizing that immigrants are an essential part of our state. California has the power to make CFAP more inclusive. 

In early 2023, participating in CalFresh kept 1.1 million Californians from experiencing poverty. Yet, many low-income Californians remain excluded from accessing CalFresh and CFAP due to arbitrary immigration status requirements. Research shows that access to CalFresh improves overall health outcomes of low-income participants and lowers health care costs over the long term. For example, increased access to CalFresh results in  $2,100 in annual health care savings per senior enrolled.

What We Have Accomplished


Upholding the commitment to Food4All Older Adults

California upheld its commitment to expand CalFresh food and nutrition benefits to all California residents over the age of 55, regardless of their immigration status by settinga target implementation date..Read More


Food4All Adults

Secured $35.2 million in the 2022-23 Budget Act to provide state-funded food assistance to undocumented adults age 55 and older through our Food4All campaign. However, the Newsom administration left the..Read More

Take Action

Despite the contributions immigrants make in California, many have experienced unprecedented food insecurity during the pandemic and due to recent rises in food costs. We need inclusive policies to ensure food access for all Californians, including immigrants, and create a healthier California.

In 2021, CIPC and NourishCA launched the Food4All campaign. Thanks to the advocacy of the Food4All coalition, California has made progress towards ending the exclusion of its residents from food assistance based on their immigration status. CalFresh food benefits are anticipated to be available to those age 55 and over, regardless of immigration status, beginning October 2025. While this is a commendable step towards Food4All, immigrants of all ages continue to struggle and must be included in this historic expansion to ensure that all Californians have access to the food they want and need to thrive.

The Food4All campaign continues to advocate for Food4All. CIPC is a proud co-sponsor of SB 245 (Hurtado) and AB 311 (Santiago), identical legislation that will increase access to food by removing the arbitrary exclusion of income-eligible Californians from CFAP due to their immigration status, regardless of age. Food4All will reduce hunger, improve health, and help lift Californians out of poverty. Now is the time for California to champion bold legislation and create an equitable vision for our nation. No Exceptions, No Exclusions, No Delays!

Join CIPC and the Food4All Coalition to urge your legislators to pass #Food4All this year, to ensure all Californians have access to food. 

Share Your Story

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Food For All

CalFresh: How to Apply

Eligibility Guides & Immigrant Resources

Find a Local Food Bank

#Food4All_Benyamin Quote

Benyamin Chao: Food brings people together

We all believe people deserve access to food. People should not go hungry for any reason.  It’s fundamental to the dignity of human beings. Our goal is to ensure that everyone, no matter their income or status, has access to food.

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