Frequently Asked Questions


For Students

How do I get involved?

We look for student interns and volunteers on a semesterly basis and calls for applicants will be posted at our Get Involved page when released. 

If you are looking to partner with Basic Needs for an event, presentation, or more, fill out our Inquiry Form(link is external) or learn more about our work at our Research page.

For other questions, email us at

For Staff & Faculty

What can I do to support the basic needs of those that I teach/work with?

Thank you for wanting to advocate for the well-being of others! Our efforts wouldn't be complete with you. You can follow these steps to become a Basic Needs Champion:

  1. Include the Basic Needs Center website and relevant information on your syllabi and email signature
  2. Request a Basic Needs presentation on our services and efforts for your class or group
  3. Host CalFresh eligibility screenings and application sessions for your class or group by emailing
  4. If you are concerned about the well-being of someone you know, you can direct them to this website where they can search for resources or suggest that they complete our Basic Needs Assistance Form to receive one-on-one care coordination support. Alternatively, you can submit a Care Report through the Center for Support and Intervention and the student will be referred directly to our team.

I’m concerned about the well-being of someone I know, what should I do?

If you are concerned about someone’s basic needs, please direct them to this website where they can search for appropriate resources, or complete the Basic Needs Assistance Form, and potentially meet with one of our staff.

Alternatively, you can submit a Care Report through the Center for Support and Intervention (CSI) and the student will be referred directly to our team.

For Non-UC Berkeley Affiliates



Are graduate students eligible to apply for CalFresh?

Graduate students, similar to undergraduate students, must meet certain guidelines in order to qualify for CalFresh. For graduate students, the group of students who are the most likely to qualify include:

  • Students who have been approved for work-study
  • Students who work 20 hours a week or an average of 80 hours a month
  • Students with dependents under the age of 12
  • Students who receive services from Disabled Students’ Services (DSP)

All students must be within the income limits of CalFresh. Below is a list of income that is excluded:

  • In-Kind Benefits – Any gain or benefit that is not in the form of money (i.e., meals, clothing, housing provided by the employer, etc.)
  • Vendor Payments – Money paid to a third party for a household expense by a person or organization outside of the household.
  • Deferred Educational Loans
  • Grants and Scholarships
  • Cash donations from a charitable organization of not more than $300 in a calendar quarter.
  • Income received too infrequently/irregularly to be reasonably anticipated but not more than $30 in a quarter.

Graduate students can and are encouraged to convert their loans into work study to strengthen their application.

Education Opportunity Program is in the process of expanding their sponsorship to eligible Graduate Students.

If you are not eligible for CalFresh, we recommend applying for the Food Assistance Program.

I am undocumented. Can I apply for CalFresh?

Since CalFresh is a federal nutrition program and is currently only open to US citizens and legal permanent residents, you will not be able to apply. However, we encourage you to apply to the Food Assistance Program instead.

Learn more about Basic Needs resources available to undocumented students at our For Undocumented Students page, or receive further guidance and support from the Undocumented Student Program.


What documentation will I need for my application?


  • Identification may include one of the following: driver's license, California I.D., U.S. passport, birth certificate, or Cal ID
  • For non-citizens: Permanent Resident Card or other relevant immigration paperwork

Pay Stubs

  • Work-study jobs DO NOT count as income. If your county worker asks about your job, let them know it is work-study, therefore part of your financial aid package (not income).
  • For non-work study jobs: dated check stubs for the last 30 days that show your name OR statement of earnings from an employer.
    • If you are a UC employee, statements can be found here.

Proof of Housing Expenses

  • Rent receipt (if you pay rent online, a receipt should be emailed to you)
  • OR  a lease agreement that indicates the portion of the rent you pay
  • OR venmo transaction
    • Email receipt is preferred
    • Screenshot is okay
    • Must be clearly labeled with your name and the amount of rent you pay 
  • Informal rent or lease letter can be submitted but must be dated with the amount paid and contact information for the person who wrote you the letter
  • For University Apartments or UC Village:
    • CalCentral >> My Finances >> View PDF Statement >> under Your Bills select the document with your most recent rent bill
  • Utilities or other bills: verification is not required

Financial Aid Award Letter

  • Financial award letter showing Cal Grant A or B, and/or Federal/State Work-Study
  • To access your letter go to CalCentral >> My Finances >> View Awards >> My Financial Aid Summary Report

Schedule of Classes/Enrollment Verification 

  • Schedule of classes showing the number of units you are taking

    • CalCentral >> My Academics >> View Academic Summary >> Print

  • Enrollment Verification
    • CalCentral >> My Academics >> scroll down to Academic Records on the bottom left >> Enrollment Verification >> View or Print Enrollment Via Self Service >> Obtain an Enrollment Certificate

Student Verification

  • Students are no longer required to prove how they qualify for CalFresh but there may be circumstances when a worker might need more information. In these situations, you may be asked for:
    • EOP verification: please email to request the verification
    • Work-study: a printout of your financial aid award letter

Have questions about the documents? Contact us at


Where can I use my CalFresh?

You can use your CalFresh benefits at most major grocery stores suchg as:

  • Target
  • Walgreen’s
  • Costco
  • Berkeley Bowl
  • Trader Joe’s
  • Berkeley Student Food Collective
  • Bear Market

Find the whole list here.  You can even use it at Farmer Markets! For more information, visit the Ecology Center.

Will I continue to receive benefits during school breaks and summer?

Yes, CalFresh benefits are year round. Your EBT card will be refilled every month regardless of holidays. The only time a card cannot be refilled is in the case of a government shutdown.

Will receiving benefits affect my financial aid package?

CalFresh benefits are provided in addition to financial aid, they do not negatively impact eligibility for or total amount awarded.

Note: CalFresh resources are not taken into consideration when initially awarding financial aid. These resources may be taken into consideration, however, when requesting additional aid for food via a Food Assistance Program request.


I missed the deadline to turn in my SAR 7 form. It says it was due the 5th, but I haven’t turned it in. What should I do?

Don’t worry! Your SAR 7 form is not due until the 28th of the month you received it. Just upload it online before then. You can do so at the Alameda County Social Services Website.


Will applying for CalFresh take away benefits from those who need it more than me?


The total amount of CalFresh benefits available for everyone has already been predetermined and set aside by the government based on how many people are eligible, and 2 in 5 students are eligible for CalFresh! This includes EOP students, Cal Grant recipients, work study students, and more.

If you are eligible for CalFresh, then benefits have already been allocated to you regardless of whether or not you use it. It will not take away from other folks who also qualify.

Food Pantry

Who can use the Pantry?

The pantry aims to serve any UC Berkeley student or staff in need of emergency food assistance. The only qualifying criteria is a Cal ID, which we ask users to scan as part of our “checkout” process.

However, we do sometimes see members of the community who are not directly affiliated with the university coming in for food assistance. Our official policy is that no one is turned away, though we do aim to redirect non-UC Berkeley affiliated visitors towards resources that are intended for Berkeley and Bay Area community members, like the Berkeley Food Network Food pantry.

What can I expect when I come to the Pantry?

Users of the pantry are free to enter the pantry and collect as many items as they need. There is no system to limit the number or type of items you can take - we just ask that users be conscious that the pantry is a shared resource and take only what they need.

We ask that users go through a checkout process where they scan their Cal ID, answer yes/no questions about the items they took, scan any barcoded items listed in our inventory, and confirm their status as a student or staff with or without dependents. This information is encrypted and helps us conduct research to better meet your needs down the line.

Due to COVID-19 public health guidelines, we have moved from the Food Pantry at BNorth (lower level of MLK Student Union), to the first floor of the MLK Student Union. However, other than the location, you can expect the same experience coming to the pantry as mentioned above.

Who runs the pantry? Are they staff or volunteers? Can I volunteer/be hired?

The pantry is run by 50+ student volunteers and managed by 2-3 student staff coordinators, with support from Basic Needs full time staff.

Student volunteers are recruited at the beginning of each semester, with the expectation that they will attend a training and their two hour shift each week. They also have the option of taking on an hour of committee work each week and earning one unit for the Ethnic Studies program (ETHSTD 197) per 45 hours of volunteer work.

Any student can apply to be a volunteer, with priority given to returning volunteers and new volunteers selected based on scheduling needs. Volunteers are usually only recruited at the beginning of each semester; though if more are needed, in the past they have been added to the schedule throughout the semester.

If students and community members would like to volunteer but can’t/don’t want to commit to a weekly shift, we encourage them to reach out to us via email to come on a drop-in basis and help out as often as they like.

Additionally, to alleviate our student volunteers during RRR & Finals Week, we modify our schedule and ask parents and community members to sign up to staff the pantry for those two weeks.

Our student coordinators are hired as current coordinators graduate/move on to other roles; for the food pantry. 

Spring 2021 Intern Cohort

Spring 2021 volunteer collage

Where does the food come from?

Some items are purchased and other items are donated.

We order nonperishables from the wholesale supplier UNFI, and ACCFB (Alameda County Community Food Bank). We order produce mainly from Daylight foods, though we are currently working towards connecting with smaller vendors and independent farmers for more of our produce orders.

Bread, some dairy items, produce, prepared food/prepackaged meals, and miscellaneous nonperishables are donated by businesses and community members. Some donations are consistent and others are sporadic, and they often vary semester-to-semester. 

Produce is donated from local farmers markets (like Kensington Farmers Market), grocery stores (like Monterey Market in North Berkeley or Whole Foods), and community farms and gardens (like Gill Tract Community Farm or Clark Kerr Garden). It is delivered by volunteers, some affiliated with certain organizations. Some of our produce and nearly all bread and pastries is delivered by volunteers associated with the Bay Area nonprofit Daily Bread. They also often accommodate donations of dairy and eggs from grocery stores like Berkeley Bowl. We also receive regular donations of excess food from our dining halls and campus restaurants like Golden Bear Cafe, which are delivered by bay area-based nonprofit Replate and processed by our Food Recovery team. Occasionally, items will be picked up by pantry staff and brought to the pantry depending on capacity or special circumstances, like harvests done by our Gleaning team.

If you are interested in supporting our efforts, we highly recommend monetary instead of in-kind donations to ensure sanitary conditions and maximize efficiency.

Where does the funding come from? Do you have a nonprofit status?

Our funding comes from a variety of sources: currently our pantry inventory is purchased through funding from individual donors and some funding from the state of CA for Basic Needs. Our operations, other supplies, and staffing are paid for with funds from state Basic Needs funding, donations from Peet’s and Bank of the West and smaller individual donations. We also receive funding from the ASUC thanks to the recently passed Basic Needs Referendum, but most of this goes to other Basic Needs programs. 

We are part of the UC Berkeley Foundation which is a registered 501(c)3. If you would like to report a donation on your taxes we are happy to share our tax ID # for tax refund purposes. You can email us at