The School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme (SFVS) provides children in government-run schools in England with a free piece of fruit or a vegetable each school day for the first 3 years of school. The present study examines the impact of the SFVS, in terms of its contribution towards the total daily intake of fruit and vegetables by children across England. Quantitative dietary data were collected from 2306 children in their third year of school, from 128 schools, using a 24 h food diary. The data were examined at different spatial scales, and variations in the impact of the scheme across areas with different socio-economic characteristics were analysed using a deprivation index and a geodemographic classification. The uptake of the SFVS and the total intake of fruit and vegetables by children varied across different parts of England. Participation in the SFVS was positively associated with fruit and vegetable consumption. That is, in any one area, those children who participated in the SFVS consumed more fruit and vegetables. However, children living in deprived areas still consumed less fruit and vegetables than children living in more advantaged areas: the mean daily frequency of fruit and vegetables consumed, and rates of consumption of fruit or vegetables five times or more per d, decreased as deprivation increased (r − 0·860; P = 0·001; r − 0·842; P = 0·002). So the SFVS does not eliminate the socio-economic gradient in fruit and vegetable consumption, but it does help to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in deprived (and affluent) areas.