As rising inflation rates continue to squeeze the wallets of Americans and UC Berkeley students alike, many are looking for new ways to save. Fortunately, recipients of CalFresh can use their Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, cards to save on plenty of purchases in addition to food items.
CalFresh, California’s version of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, provides qualifying low-income residents up to $281 monthly to pay for groceries at supermarkets and farmers’ markets by using their EBT cards, according to Marcia Garcia, the community services coordinator at campus’s Basic Needs Center.
California offers the Market Match program, which supplements food benefits for CalFresh recipients, so they can receive either tokens toward or a 50% discount on fresh, sustainably grown produce from local farmers markets.
“Another goal of the program is to promote healthy, sustainable, and just food systems,” said Heidi Kleiner, the farmers market access and equity program manager for Market Match. “Part of it is also supporting the small and mid-sized farms and farmers that are growing the food.”
A map of markets around the state that participate in the program can be found on the Ecology Center’s Farmers’ Market Finder.
On campus, the Bear Market at Unit 3 is the only food retailer that accepts EBT, according to Garcia.
Fortunately, students and community members can also visit the Berkeley Student Food Collective, or BSFC, on Bancroft Avenue to partake in the Double Up Food Bucks program, which offers EBT/SNAP users 50% off all California-grown produce, according to J. Noven, executive director of the BSFC.
“EBT users are prompted to provide their email address when purchasing California-grown fruits and vegetables,” Noven said in an email. “Then, they receive a voucher for the same amount that they originally spent on produce, which they can use to buy any fruits and veggies at the Collective.”
While the $281 monthly stipend only applies to purchases for food items, recipients still have access to other government-subsidized programs like the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides discounted internet services to eligible applicants, Museums for All, which offers reduced museum admissions, and the California LifeLine Program, which offers discounted phones and cell phone plans.
Major brands have also partnered with SNAP nationwide, such as Amazon Prime, which offers Prime Access for qualifying individuals and provides large discounts on all purchases made through Amazon. In addition, bike and scooter rental companies Superpedestrian and Lime offer services to SNAP participants.
A CalFresh recipient, who wished to remain anonymous due to privacy concerns, said these services have made their life much more convenient and that the process to qualify for them has been uncomplicated so far.
“I’m really grateful and appreciative because it’s also mobilized me in a lot of ways,” the recipient said. “I really feel easier with money.”