A hub providing ‘seed to spoon’ food education for primary school children in Hackney has been crowned the winner of The William Sutton Prize for Social Innovation at an awards ceremony which took place virtually on 25 March.

Opened in 2020, The Hackney School of Food is a collaboration between charity Chefs in Schools, the LEAP Federation – made up of three state primary schools in Hackney – and architect Surman Weston that transformed an old building and area of disused land into a food education hub.

Through the hub, primary school children benefit from food education and the local community receive free cooking classes, enabling children and adults to learn to grow fruit and vegetables, tend beehives, cook over fire and turn produce into meals. The£20,000 prize fund will be used to share the model with other schools to create nurturing environments for children to engage with food and growing.  

Hackney School of Food by Surman Weston. Copyright Jim Stephenson 2020
Hackney School of Food by Surman Weston. Copyright Jim Stephenson 2020

Highly commended was a proposal by Enable Ability for a new service that helps people with anxiety access health, social care and education services through the use of immersive technology, including virtual tours, walk through videos and virtual reality. During the pandemic, the service has been developed and delivered by young autistic and disabled people, building in lived experience, and the £5,000 prize fund will help roll out the service and develop it further.

The seven-strong shortlist also included projects by The Social Change Nest, a business that has been supporting people-powered networks and grassroots groups since 2013, and The Parenting Apart Programme CIC, a specialist service supporting parents and children through conflict, separation and divorce.

These projects were selected from a record-breaking 154 applications, with many of the finalists’ proposals directly responding to the coronavirus pandemic.   

Now in its third year, The William Sutton Prize was developed by Clarion Housing Group to celebrate the legacy of its founder, William Sutton, as a 19th century innovator and philanthropist who bequeathed his fortune to improve the quality of social housing.

It encourages individuals and organisations to present a new concept, service or idea that will benefit social housing residents and communities, with a prize fund on offer to help develop the idea and maximise its impact. The funding is provided by Clarion Futures, the charitable foundation of Clarion Housing Group.

The winning entries were determined by a panel led by Clare Miller, Group Chief Executive of Clarion, and including Peter Holbrook CBE, CEO of Social Enterprise UK.

Clare Miller, Chief Executive of Clarion Housing Group, commented:

“Giving children space and time to learn about food is a great way to sow the seeds of lifelong healthy eating habits, so we’re delighted that we’ll be working with the team behind The Hackney School of Food to enable more children to benefit from their innovative model. It’s been inspiring reviewing our record-breaking number of applications and, as always, my fellow judges and I had a very difficult job choosing our winners. I’m excited to see how they take their innovative ideas to the next level with our support.”   

Tom Walker, Head Food Educator at The Hackney School of Food, said:

“Winning The William Sutton Prize is such an exciting moment for us as a team. The prize fund will make a huge difference to our plans, helping us to share our hugely successful model with other schools to enable more children and communities to benefit. We know that seeing where your food comes from and learning about healthy eating and cooking sets children up for life and we’re looking forward to working with Clarion to grow our concept further.”

Peter Holbrook CBE, CEO of Social Enterprise UK, said:

“Every year applications for The William Sutton Prize go from strength to strength and in this most difficult of years it was brilliant to see a record number of inspiring projects apply for the Prize. Initiatives like the Hackney School of Food are vital in building stronger, more sustainable communities and have a huge role to play in reducing the inequalities of health, wealth and opportunities the pandemic revealed. Congratulations to all the organisations who made the shortlist, I look forward to seeing them grow, develop and increase their impact.”

To find out more about The William Sutton Prize, visit www.clarionhg.com/william-sutton-prize 

To register your interest for the fourth year of The William Sutton Prize, simply get in touch via email and the team will contact you once applications open. 


Notes to Editors

All media enquiries to Sarah Dade, Communications Manager at Clarion Housing Group, on sarah.dade@clarionhg.com

High resolution images available on request.

The winner of The William Sutton Prize for Placemaking and Affordable Housing Design is Ecomotive and SNUG Homes’ proposal for a construction and training hub in Bristol that will enable residents to co-produce eco-friendly, modular housing in response to local needs. The project will also provide apprenticeship, volunteering and employment opportunities, as well as self-build training and support for community-led housing initiatives.

Highly commended was a proposal by Editional Studio, whose founders were featured in AJ’s ‘40 under 40’, to create a ‘Roving Retrofit Workshop’ that will work with housing associations and residents to retrofit and upgrade their homes. The £5,000 prize fund will help develop the concept further, enabling residents to reduce their carbon consumption and energy bills through hands-on workshops and go on to train and qualify as green retrofit contractors.

The winning entries were determined by a panel comprising:

  • Clare Miller, Chief Executive of Clarion Housing Group
  • Greg Reed, Clarion Housing Group Board member, Non-Executive Director of the HomeServe Foundation and Former CEO of HomeServe UK
  • Peter Fortune, Deputy Leader of the London Borough of Bromley
  • Biljana Savic, Director of The Academy of Urbanism
  • Peter Holbrook CBE, CEO of Social Enterprise UK
  • Richard Cook, Group Director of Development of Clarion Housing Group
  • Michelle Reynolds, Chief Operating Officer of Clarion Housing Group

About Clarion Housing Group

Clarion Housing Group is the UK’s largest provider of affordable housing. We are committed to playing our part in tackling the housing crisis, both as a social landlord and developer of new housing.

More than 350,000 people call a Clarion home their home. Our mission is to provide and maintain good quality housing for our residents and to build communities through high quality design and placemaking.

We are a social business, reinvesting our profits into building new homes and providing support and opportunities to our residents through Clarion Futures, our charitable foundation.


Twitter: @Clarion_Group