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08/15/2022

Forage Earns USDA Approval for Online SNAP EBT Payment Solution

1st merchant, indie Gong's Market, went live on platform earlier this month
Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
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Forage is one of only three online EBT TPPs on the USDA website, the others being Fiserv/PaySecure and FIS/Worldpay.

Payments processor Forage has been officially recognized by the USDA as an approved third-party payments (TPP) provider for online SNAP EBT. Forage is one of only three online EBT TPPs on the USDA website, the others being Fiserv/PaySecure and FIS/Worldpay. This news comes shortly after Forage raised $22 million in funding from Nyca Partners, PayPal Ventures and Instacart founder Apoorva Mehta.

The USDA introduced the online purchasing pilot for SNAP EBT in 2016, asking for retail volunteers. After three years of planning, development and testing, the first pilot retailers went live with online EBT in April 2019. When the pandemic hit in 2020, the USDA quickly expanded the pilot from the original eight retailers, enabling any SNAP-authorized retailer to apply. Forage began working with USDA in 2021 and is the only online EBT TPP to provide management, documentation support and technical assistance to its merchant and platform partners. 

“Our USDA FNS approval marks a historic milestone for both our company as well as the EBT ecosystem, as Forage is now the third payments company to become an approved online EBT TPP,” said Ofek Lavian, CEO of San Francisco-based Forage, which successfully launched its first merchant, Gong’s Market, earlier this month. “We are grateful to have the opportunity to expand access to SNAP EBT online for the 42 million Americans that rely on this critical payment method.”

Added Lavian, “Our focus now is on ensuring the success of our merchant partners as they go live with online EBT acceptance in the coming weeks.”

While more than 250,000 brick-and-mortar locations accept SNAP benefits via EBT in-store, only a few have been approved for online EBT. Many SNAP recipients are homebound, lack transportation or live in underserved areas without easy access to grocery stores; others want to avoid in-person shopping because of COVID concerns. While many Americans were able to move to online grocery shopping during the pandemic, a  large number of SNAP recipients were effectively unable to use their benefits online. 

In addition to its stand-alone EBT solution, Forage developed and recently rolled out the first Shopify app that offers online EBT payment processing to Shopify’s ecosystem of merchants. Forage is already working with dozens of grocers to help them be able to accept SNAP EBT online. 

Gong’s Market, a family-owned grocer based in Sanger, Calif., leveraged the Forage app for Shopify, and Forage collaborated with Shopify Plus partner Grocerist on the project. Toronto-based Grocerist offers the first and only solution fully customized for grocers on Shopify, the world’s largest e-commerce platform.

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