Dollar Store Project

Dollar Store Retail Chain Logo


Dollar Stores have become pervasive retailers in both rural and urban settings. There are over 35,000 Dollar Stores in the U.S. as of 2021, with many located in low-income urban neighborhoods of color. Dollar Stores usually sell some food items, but typically sell no fresh produce, instead primarily offering ultra-processed, high -fat, -sugar, and -sodium foods.

There are over 50 Dollar Stores in Baltimore City located in areas with existing low food access and low healthy food availability. This poses a public health opportunity for leveraging these existing food retail sources as positive change agents within local communities.

Policies are being increasingly explored as means of controlling the spread of Dollar Stores, including dispersal and shelf/floor space regulations. Maryland State Senate Bill 869 which was passed in the Spring of 2022 requires Baltimore City to conduct a study of Dollar Stores to inform potential policies.

In collaboration with state, city, and community partners, we will study Dollar Stores in Baltimore City in terms of the food environment (i.e., food and beverage availability, price, and quality) within stores, how the community views and utilizes this store type, and the impact of Dollar Store proliferation on other local retailers.

This work will be used to co-generate new Dollar Store policies in collaboration with our project partners to propose to City Council.


  • To contribute to the Maryland State-required Dollar Store study planned to start this year by assessing how Dollar Stores function (store operations, decision-making about food stocking), how they are utilized by the community, their potential to be a source of affordable healthy foods, and their impact on the economic stability of other local retailers.

  • To characterize the Dollar Store food environment in Baltimore in order to describe the types and prices of foods sold, acceptance of federal nutrition assistance program benefits, and customers demographics, to guide recommendations for improving the healthiness of food offerings at these stores.

  • To assist with development and adoption of recommendations for Dollar Store policies for the City of Baltimore.

  • To evaluate the impact of the new policy on entry/exiting of Dollar Stores in Baltimore, existing retailers, and on healthy food access.

November 2023 Report

Baltimore City Dollar Store Report Nov 2023

Read more about dollar stores in Baltimore City in our recent report titled A description of dollar stores in Baltimore City: Research findings and policy recommendations from structured store observations and community engagement. This report was shared with Baltimore City Council Members and Maryland State Senator Mary Washington, and outlines our key research findings and policy recommendations.

Report Aims

The project was guided by the following aims:

  • To understand where dollar stores are located in Baltimore City, and how this relates to neighborhood racial composition and socioeconomic status.

  • To understand how Baltimore City community members currently view and utilize dollar stores.

  • To describe the Baltimore City dollar store environment inside and outside of stores.

  • To understand what dollar store policies community stakeholders support, and gather feedback on the proposed conditional use policy language being drafted by City Council, and make policy recommendations.


To accomplish this, we employed a mixed-methods approach across four study phases from October 2022-August 2023:

  • In-depth interviews with community members and policymakers

  • Structured in-store observations

  • An online survey

  • Two workshops: one with community members and one with local policy makers.


Joel Gittelsohn, PhD
Joel Gittelsohn, PhDPrincipal Investigator
Samantha Sundermeir, MS
Samantha Sundermeir, MSPrincipal Investigator
Lisa Poirier
Lisa PoirierResearch Associate
Sydney Santos
Sydney SantosData Collector
Shuxian (Sybil) Hua
Shuxian (Sybil) HuaData Collector

If you would like the data collection forms please email Joel Gittelsohn. 

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