There were reasons the US government moved away from calling its monthly food assistance program “food stamps,” but most people still refer to it as such. However, it affords its beneficiaries many non-food-related discounts.
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Known since 2008 as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the federal aid initiative provides food purchase funding to low- and no-income households that earn less than 200% of the federal poverty level. In California, the SNAP program is called CalFresh, and it is the largest food program in the state, helping millions of residents burdened with food insecurity. Federally mandated, state supervised and county operated, CalFresh promotes nutritious food purchasing by issuing monthly benefits through an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card.
SNAP is changing all the time, adding more online options for food ordering and including more low-cost, fast food restaurants through the state-run Restaurant Meals Program. And it is increasingly opening more doors to discounts on non-food-related services.
Here are four types of product discounts or free services that you might not have known were available to California SNAP recipients:
1. Computers/Internet/Cell Phones
There are a number of companies that offer free or heavily discounted computers to low-income households, according to Low Income Relief. One specific to SNAP receivers and households that earn less than 200% of federal poverty guidelines is PCs for People, a national nonprofit organization that recycles and refurbishes computers and distributes them to households who wouldn’t normally be able to afford one.
Through the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), eligible CalFresh recipients could receive up to a $30 per month discount on internet service (up to a $75 per month discount if a household is on qualifying Tribal lands), a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer and a low-cost service plan covered by the ACP.
SNAP participants can get a free cell phone through the FCC’s Lifeline Program for Low Income Customers. Only one Lifeline subsidy per household can be received, and it can be used for a home phone, cell phone or high-speed broadband internet service.
One of the best perks of being a CalFresh EBT recipient is being able to take advantage of free or discounted admission to dozens of California museums and over 600 museums throughout the United States. According to iCalifornia Food Stamps, these family friendly activities are sponsored by Museums for All and include “access to all types of museums — including art, history, natural history/anthropology, and general museums, children’s museums, science centers, planetariums, nature centers , historic houses/sites, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and arboretums.”
3. Amazon Prime
California EBT card holders can sign up for an Amazon Prime EBT Discount which gives members all the advantages and benefits of Amazon Prime at about half the regular cost of a subscription ($6.99/month). This means access to Amazon’s variety of shipping options (Free Same-Day Delivery, Prime Now, Free Release-Day Delivery and Free No-Rush Shipping), streaming benefits (Prime Video, Amazon channels, Prime Music) and all sorts of shopping opportunities , including food.
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4. Farmers’ Markets
Because many US citizens equate SNAP benefits with food stamps, we’ll end on a food-related deal that simply cannot be turned down. CalFresh promotes buying nutritious food, and one of the best ways to stretch your benefits is to shop at farmers’ markets. Many California farmers’ markets offer EBT matching, meaning that you can double the amount of food you can buy, up to $10 per visit. So, as Food Stamps Now states, “If you spend $10 on your EBT card, you get $10 more in produce. Therefore, for the first $10 you spend per visit, you get $20 worth of food.”
According to the latest USDA/Food and Nutrition Service statistics, 4,669,304 Californians — 2,649,214 California households — are receiving food stamps and spent $1,206,684,474 in May 2022. Due to its high population count, California has the most people who benefit from SNAP of any state, but it doesn’t have the largest percentage of its residents receiving SNAP (New Mexico does, at 21%).
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