Current Projects

Dollar Stores and Food Access for Rural Households in the US, 2008-2020: Abstract: Dollar stores have rapidly expanded their food offerings in recent years. These foods tend to be higher in calories, and lower in nutrients, raising public health concerns, especially in rural and low-income areas where food-access challenges are often greatest. However, there is limited empirical evidence evaluating the impact of this expansion on household food purchases on a national scale. Using data from a yearly, nationally representative panel of approximately 50,000 households, we estimated the share of food purchases from 2008 to 2020 by store type and evaluated the role of dollar stores as food retailers in the United States. We found that dollar stores were the fastest-growing food retailers by household expenditure share (increasing by 89.7%) with rural growth outpacing growth elsewhere (increasing by 102.9%). Though dollar stores still represent a small share of national household food purchases (2.1% in 2020), they play an increasingly prominent role in food-at-home purchases for certain disadvantaged and rural communities. Understanding the quality of the foods they offer and how this may affect diet-related health outcomes is warranted. link to AJPH article: link to Tufts Now story:

Dollar Stores and the SNAP Cycle: This study looks to evaluate the healthfulness of foods purchased in dollar stores versus other store types, at various times of the SNAP cycle​. This is supported by a grant by the Gifford​ Center for Population Studies,

Dollar Store Shopping, Obesity, and Dietary Quality: This study looks to analyze the associations among dollar store shopping behavior, dietary quality, and obesity and highlights the role of dollar stores in communities with low access to food and/or are at greater risk of obesity through sub-sample analyses. This is supported by a grant by the Tufts Institute for Global Obesity Research,

Household Expenditures at Dollar Stores and Implications for Health, 2008-18: The primary objective of this study is to characterize household expenditures at dollar stores over the past decade (2008-2018). Specific aims include: (1) ​Estimate dollar store expenditures as a share of total grocery expenditures, as well as dollar store expenditures for specific food categories for 2008 to 2018;​ (2) Characterize the demographics of households for which dollars stores are a significant source of groceries (e.g., by income, race, rurality, etc.); (3) determine how that has changed over the past decade; ​Assess the healthfulness and diversity of dollar store food purchases as compared to other retail channels.​ This is supported by the USDA Economic Research Service through a Cooperative Agreement. Coop Agreement # 58-4000-0-0021,

Is the dollar store the new grocery store? Analysis of dollar stores’ geographic distribution and role in household expenditures​: The primary objective of this study is to Specific Aims​ to assess the current landscape of dollar stores by evaluating the increase in the number of locations of dollar stores across the United States over a ten-year period; and evaluating the regional differences in this increase, including rural/urban contrasts and the presence of dollar stores in low-access areas, to analyze household purchasing behavior, including the share of dollar store expenditure among total grocery expenditures, the characteristics of households that use dollar store as their primary stores, and the healthfulness of dollar store purchases. This is supported by the Tufts Springboard grant,

Other Upcoming Projects:

Literature review: ‘What do we know about food shopping at dollar stores? A systematic review of the literature’, led by Sean Cash and Wenhui Feng

Qualitative analysis: ‘Dollar Store Shopping during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Insights from Fresno and Boston Shoppers’, led by Alex Schmall

Qualitative analysis: ‘Media Coverage of Dollar Store Expansion and Access to Nutritious Food’, led by Madison Reid, Hailey Fromkin, and Susan Koch-Weser


Presentation ‘Does it Matter that People are Buying More Food Than Ever at Dollar Stores‘ – Tufts University, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy Friedman School Speaker Series. Sean Cash, PhD., Lauren Chenarides, PhD., Wenhui Feng, PhD. (2021)

Presentation ‘Household Food Expenditures at Dollar Stores and Implications for Health, 2008-18Agricultural & Applied Economics Association and Western Agricultural Economics Association Annual Meeting. Feng, W., Page, E., Saravana, D., and Cash, S. (2021)

Poster presentation ‘The Healthfulness and Mix of Foods Purchased at Dollar Stores, 2008-2020’ Agricultural and Applied Economics Association annual meeting. Feng, W., Page, E., Sun, B., Cash, S. (2022)

Virtual workshop presentation ‘Household Food Expenditures at Dollar Stores and Implications for Health, 2008-18’ – Food Insecurity, Neighborhood Food Environment, and Nutrition Health Disparities: State of the Science, National Institutes of Health. Feng, W., Page, E., and Cash, S. (2021)

Presentation ‘Dollar Store Shopping during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Insights from Fresno’ Friedman speaker series​. Alex Schmall

Virtual Presentation ‘Dollar Store Shopping during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Insights from Fresno and Boston Shoppers’ – American Society for Nutrition. Schmall, A., Kinney, R., Gozdiff A., Reid, M., Folta, S., Feng, W., and Cash, S. (2021)