A complex application process should never stand in the way of a hungry family accessing food assistance. Code for America partners with local and state government agencies and community-based organizations to increase access to healthy food. Using GetCalFresh we are on our way to closing the SNAP participation gap in California and across the country; ensuring every eligible America receives the food assistance they need to live a long and healthy life.

Key facts 

  • SNAP supports the lowest income and most vulnerable Americans.
  • 76% of SNAP benefits support households with children.
  • 2.5 million Californians are eligible for food assistance, but don’t get it. For every dollar of SNAP lost, the broader economy loses almost two.


  • Scale GetCalFresh and close the participation gap ensuring every eligible Californian is enrolled in CalFresh.
  • Reduce application time from 45 minutes to 10 minutes, ensuring a low-wage worker can apply for SNAP and still grab a drink of water on a 15 minute break. 
  • Partner with all 58 counties in California to provide comprehensive program data on how applicants experience program enrollment and work with them to address barriers.

The problem 

Hungry kids can't learn. Hungry families must make hard trade-offs between paying rent and buying food. The SNAP program feeds 45 million Americans and yet 10 million people are eligible and not enrolled in the program. California has led the way by improving outreach, reducing policy barriers, and running public campaigns, but we still have the second lowest SNAP enrollment rate in the United States. Applicants face many barriers.

  • Each application asks clients over 100 questions, many of of which aren’t required or don’t pertain to them. Applicants have reported spending up to three hours on their application and 62% of people who begin an application don’t ever finish for these very reasons.
  • Applications don’t work on mobile devices, despite evidence that low-income Americans access primary the internet primarily through smartphones. Each year, there are over 200,000 Google searches for CalFresh from a mobile device. Without a mobile friendly CalFresh application, many Californians have no way to apply for CalFresh benefits online. 
  • Even after a client’s initial application is submitted, the rest of the process can be challenging. For instance, the official online applications in California don’t support document uploading.

Our approach

GetCalFresh allows clients to submit their application in 10 minutes using our easy-to-understand online form, which can also be easily completed on a smartphone. We then submit their CalFresh application to the appropriate county for eligibility determination. GetCalFresh is the only SNAP application in the country that works on a mobile device. We don’t just make the application easier, we improve the entire process by:

  • Building awareness of the availability of food assistance through digital outreach.
  • Making sure the process is accessible on a mobile phone or tablet.
  • Answering peoples questions via online chat, providing prompts if they are stuck.
  • Removing the need for faxing or scanning of documents (we enable users to take a picture and upload their documents).
  • Using a reminder system to send text or email reminders (depending on user preference) to provide visibility into their application progress, their required interview, and how to maintain their enrollment.
  • Providing support to overcome common barriers, such as rescheduling interviews.

We also address underlying enrollment issues in partner countries, resulting in changes to the overall application process that benefit every CalFresh user. For example, we recently uncovered that some counties’ numbers were showing up as “scam likely” in the caller ID and applicants were reporting that the county never called. GetCalFresh worked with the vendor to remove all outbound county phone numbers from that list. Fixing these root problems ensures that all users of the food assistance system benefit from our work, not just those using GetCalFresh.


Since GetCalFresh has been active, we have assisted more than 200,000 residents applying for food assistance. We’re uncovering the reasons why applicants are missing their interviews or not sending verification documents to the county. Our goal is to remove these barriers, provide a stronger customer experience, and increase outcomes for anyone applying for food assistance.