Hi, we’re Forage, a payments company on a mission to increase access to government benefits. At present, we’re a 28-person team focused on increasing access to food for the 42 million Americans who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly known as food stamps). We're a team with diverse backgrounds ranging from tech and finance, to nonprofits, public policy, and social work, and together we're determined to enable more healthy, affordable groceries to be delivered to low-income households.
While 250,000 retailers accept SNAP benefits in store, only ~200 retailers have USDA approval to accept SNAP benefits online.
Example of in store SNAP acceptance
Today, options for SNAP recipients who want to purchase groceries online are limited. Yet, SNAP recipients stand to benefit greatly from access to online grocery shopping. Eighty-one percent of SNAP households receiving benefits include a child, an elderly adult, or a non-elderly disabled adult, underscoring the difficulty of shopping in-store. Here at Forage we believe technology can help remove some of these hurdles and increase access to food.
Forage is a USDA-approved payment processor making it easier for retailers to accept SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) payments online.
At Forage, we bring a diverse array of experiences and expertise to our retail partners. We’ve leveraged our tech backgrounds to create a “technology-first,” cloud-based EBT payment processor. Our operations and technical teams are led by the former Head of Payments at Instacart, and former GM of Amazon Access, a set of programs tailored to underserved communities, including SNAP at Amazon, Amazon Fresh, and Whole Foods Market, and have first-hand experience in navigating the government regulatory process.
Why aren’t more retailers accepting EBT online?
In 1964, SNAP became a permanent, federal program through the Food Stamp Act (now known as the Food and Nutrition Act), and EBT benefits could only be accepted in physical stores until 2019 when the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot launched with its first retailers. The USDA approval process to enable SNAP EBT online is complex, and is navigated more easily by those experienced in the process. It requires regular catalog maintenance, technical documentation and integration, and a testing period to prove functionality. Start to finish, this process requires time, resources, and knowledge of the process, and most retailers do not have all three in-house.
Forage acts as a facilitator between a retailer and USDA.
We not only offer a reliable technical solution for processing EBT payments online, but we also partner with retailers to project manage the USDA approval process. Our team of operational experts prepares and guides retailers through the process, assisting with technical requirements and documentation necessary to gain approval. We become an extension of retailers' teams, reducing launch time and simplifying a multi-step application process.
Furthermore, our work doesn’t stop after a retailer is approved by the USDA. Forage uniquely offers a value-add service, providing post-launch support. We advise retailers on building a meaningful online EBT business and creating an inclusive and dignifying customer shopping experience.
"Navigating the USDA approval to accept EBT online would have been difficult without the help of Forage, who guided us through preparation and testing." -The Hub on the Hill, The nation's first food hub to accept EBT payments online
At Forage, we understand the road to increasing access to government benefits doesn’t come without its share of challenges, but we believe deeply in our mission and have a strong sense of duty to succeed on behalf of benefits recipients. Over the next several years we’re partnering with retailers to enable online SNAP and CashEBT payments as a method for hundreds of millions of healthy, affordable groceries to be delivered to low-income households.
Looking for resources to apply to be a SNAP recipient, or know someone who may need SNAP benefits? Click here.