SAULT STE. MARIE -- Sault Ste. Marie resident Elizabeth MacMillan has been promoting gardening to increase access to fresh sustainable food.

Now, she is being honoured with a Public Health Champion award for helping people in her community live healthier lives.

MacMillan grew up in poverty and says she knows what hunger feels like.

"I was a teen mom, so I had three kids at home and I was an OW and trying to get fresh produce was impossible… I actually just started growing some stuff in my house in a little windowsill and then I noticed that my nine-year-old was busting out the measuring tape and was like 'look at this'," she explained.

Since then, the idea to bring gardening to local schools so that young kids can learn how to grow fresh produce has been planted in her mind.

"Kids think tomatoes come from a can and it just breaks my heart. So I think it's super important now because we are so technologically advanced and we're so hyper-focused on the bigger, the better the new. But we're not really focusing on our basic needs."

The local Health Unit says gardening has many benefits and can help those in low-income situations.

"Gardening is a healthy activity because it helps people provide fresh fruit economically to people with less means. It gets people outdoors and doing that’s that are more physically active," said Marlene Spruyt, Algoma Public Health.

Another thing MacMillan is growing is a new not-for-profit organization called Skills that is aimed at developing urban agriculture in the Soo.

It's a project that involves local food centres like the soup kitchen.

"Canada imports 80 per cent of its organic produce from the states so if we know we're importing that much food, we should be growing some of that," said MacMillan.

It is clear that MacMillan is a good choice for the award and is a true public health champion. She says every resident should have access to healthy food regardless of their income. She hopes that greenhouses and communal garden spaces can help with that.