Skip to content

Step one: Feed the people. Step two: Save the planet.

The Environment Network is fighting hunger and helping the planet by bringing food from garden to plate

The Environment Network is a non-profit dedicated to environmental conservation. But they recognize it’s difficult for people to care about the planet when they are going hungry. 

This led to a more holistic approach to improving our environment.

Kerri MacDonald, Executive Director of the Environment Network, explains, “It’s not just about the natural world. A sustainable environment has a strong economy, culture and society. It’s about a good quality of life for everyone.” 

So around four years ago, the organization shifted their focus to food security: ensuring that everyone in our community has enough to eat. 

“How can people care about the planet when they are worried about having enough food on the table?” Kerri questions. “People’s basic needs must be met before addressing environmental needs.” 

The organization, together with the Town of Collingwood, operates two community gardens, one at Sunset Point and another at Heritage Park. Throughout the summer, they harvest once a week - and anyone is welcome to come and take the fresh produce that they need. 

Surplus produce goes to the Collingwood Youth Centre, which is jointly managed by the Environment Network and Elephant Thoughts.

A pivotal initiative at the Collingwood Youth Centre is the culinary internship program, established in collaboration with the community and local organizations. This program caters to youth that are not in education or employment, offering them valuable culinary skills and certificates. 

“Collingwood has a lot of restaurants, so there is a demand for people with culinary skills,” Kerri explains. “The youth that participate in the internship leave well-equipped to get jobs in the community.” 

The interns cook with seasonal food from the community gardens, supplemented by grocery donations from Sobeys, saving 30 boxes of perfectly edible produce from the landfill every week.

The meals prepared by the youth supply The Mobile Soup Kitchen, aiding the homeless with nutritious meals.

Any leftover ingredients find a home at Project Butterfly, a community fridge and pantry available 24/7 for anyone who needs it. 

In creating a space for local youth to expand their culinary skills, the Environment Network  has created a mechanism for Collingwood's community to uplift its most vulnerable members. And they are not done yet. 

“We are building a community greenhouse this spring!” Kerri shares. “It will expand on our community gardens, meaning that fresh local produce will be available year-round.”

Funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the harvest from the community greenhouse will be available to anyone who needs food. 

It will also grow pollinator plants for the Town of Collingwood and for people to plant in their yard, helping our natural world to thrive alongside the people of Collingwood. 

But there is only one way to ensure that the greenhouse is a success. 

“We need volunteers!” Kerri says with a smile. “There will be so many opportunities to get involved with the community greenhouse and we would love to have more people help with our other projects too.”

For those interested in learning more or volunteering, visit, or contact Kerri directly at [email protected].