"Who pays for those—vendors, the shopper, the market? That's something that's been a real challenge to educate ourselves," says Donovan.
Determining how those costs and benefits are distributed could be key to attracting a growing population in the coming years. Spending on and usage of the SNAP program are both at record levels: The Congressional Budget Office reported in April that the federal government spent $78 billion on SNAP in 2011, and that nearly 45 million people, or roughly 1 in 7 Americans, received benefits. That total is expected to rise through 2014.
Danielle Kurtzleben is a business and economics reporter for U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter at @titonka or via E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.