The addition of a new third-party payment provider to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program should be good news for grocers that want to accept digital payments for purchases — and good news for SNAP recipients who want more shopping choices.
On Monday, San Francisco-based Forage announced that it has been officially recognized by the USDA as an approved third-party payments provider for online SNAP electronic benefits transfer payments. Forage became only the third EBT TPP listed on the USDA website, the company said in a press release. That news followed Forage’s Aug. 8 announcement that it has raised $22M in funding that included investments from Nyca Partners, PayPal Ventures and Instacart Founder Apoorva Mehta.
SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is a federal program that provides food-purchasing assistance to low-income households. Beneficiaries now pay with EBT cards. Forage’s selection as an EBT payments provider will expand the number of retailers that offer online payments as an option, opening the service up to more SNAP recipients.
Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a non-profit service and advocacy organization, called the announcement “a huge win-win” for both retailers and consumers.
“Giving more SNAP EBT recipients the ability to order groceries online, especially coupled with home deliveries, should be a much higher priority in the grocery industry,” Berg said in a press release. “With this new approval, Forage will help more food retailers do well for themselves while doing good for their communities.”
Forage has spent months working towards USDA certification, CEO Ofek Lavian said in a statement. He added that the platform’s current focus is on “ensuring the success of our merchant partners as they go live with online EBT acceptance in the coming weeks.”
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The first merchant to go live on the Forage platform was Gong’s Market, a family-owned grocer based in California. Gong’s Market leveraged the Forage app for Shopify after Forage worked closely with Shopify Plus partner Grocerist on the project, Supermarket News reported.
The Forage platform is designed to make it easier for grocers to take EBT payments for online purchases from SNAP customers. This gives grocers access to a $200 billion market and enables the 42 million Americans receiving food stamp benefits to spend them online.
As previously reported by GOBankingRates, SNAP online purchases are already available at big-box retailers such as Target and Walmart as well as national and regional grocery chains like Wegmans, Kroger, Publix, Food Lion, Safeway, Aldi and ShopRite. Dozens of smaller grocers also offer online SNAP shopping.
But many grocery retailers still face technical challenges or limited resources to deploy or update e-commerce sites that allow them to provide online services that meet SNAP requirements. To address that problem, the USDA recently announced a new grant program that will provide technical support to help smaller, independent stores offer online purchasing for SNAP participants.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Major Food Stamps Change Means More Grocery Options for SNAP Users Everywhere