Well, Katie Stagliano’s story will connect the dots.
When she was a third grader in Summerville, South Carolina’s Pinewood Preparatory School in 2008, Katie’s teacher gave her a cabbage seedling to plant in her backyard for a class project. She cared for that seedling, and it kept growing and growing until it reached 40 pounds.
If you’re like me and not particularly well-versed in normal cabbage sizes, Katie explained to me during a “Christopher Closeup” interview, “Forty pounds is ginormous for a cabbage! My four-year-old brother was about the size of my cabbage when we harvested it!”
Katie noted that her father had always taught her not to waste food because there were people who went to bed hungry every night and had to rely on soup kitchens for their only meal of the day. Therefore, she decided to donate her cabbage to a local soup kitchen run by Tri County Family Ministries. But she didn’t just drop it off, end of story. Instead, the soup kitchen’s director asked her to come back and help serve the cabbage.
Katie said, “I wasn’t sure what to expect. But when I got there, I was so surprised at how many people were there in line. The faces looked like families just like mine. It was surprising to me, how you never know who the faces of hunger may be. It may be your friends, or your neighbors, or someone you see at school every day, who’d just fallen on hard times…I ended up helping to feed 275 people. And after seeing all their faces, I thought, ‘If one cabbage can help to feed 275 people, imagine how many people an entire garden could help feed!'”
That was the moment that inspired the youngster to create Katie’s Krops, an initiative and charity that would feed the hungry. Initially, she asked her school for a little plot of land where she could plant produce to donate to those in need. But instead of “a little plot of land,” her school gave her space the size of a football field! It remains the flagship garden of Katie’s Krops and produces 3,000 pounds of food a year with the help of students, staff and the community at large.
Why do so many people get involved? Katie said, “I think one of the main things that everyone loves about helping out, especially in the gardens and at the dinners, is seeing the vegetables go full circle, from when they plant the vegetables in the garden to then helping to harvest them. And a lot of my friends come to the Katie’s Krops dinners and actually get to serve the meals that they make from these vegetables to those in need in our community. And so it’s really great to get to meet everyone that you’re helping, to feed and grow relationships with them.”
Katie’s Krops has now grown into a national youth movement that aims to end hunger one vegetable garden at a time. Young people around the country are choosing to grow produce on their own to donate to local soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Katie’s Krops will even provide funding grants for some of them. As of Spring 2016, they have 100 gardens in 32 states.
That mission spread even further with the publication of the children’s book “Katie’s Cabbage,” which won a Christopher Award. It made Katie’s story and mission even more widely known, enabling her to move forward with her mission.
Katie, now age 17, concluded, “For the future of Katie’s Krops, our main goal for right now is to expand to 500 gardens in all 50 states. Once we hit that, I’d definitely love to go global and try to make as big of a difference as we can. Because our overall goal is to help make a difference in ending hunger, which I know is something that’s very big. But working together, we can make a huge impact.”
(To listen to my full interview with Katie Stagliano, click on the podcast link):