This paper examines some characteristics of ‘food deserts’– areas of social deprivation which have poor physical access to food shopping – in a large British city, Cardiff. The stereotype of the ‘food desert’ is critically examined, emphasizing the importance attached by residents of such areas to easy access to food shopping, especially in multiple supermarkets. The case study of Cardiff briefly discusses the identification of potential ‘food deserts’, and then examines the structures of ‘healthy food’ availability and prices in four areas of the city (two in the inner city, two in the outer city) where physical access to large multiple supermarkets is poor. The analysis shows that the local shops in these areas cannot compete generally with large supermarkets on either availability of items or their prices, but that the local shops in the inner city areas are rather more competitive than those in the outer areas. Implications for research and policy formulation are finally discussed.