February 28, 2018
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How a South Carolina teen launched a youth movement that’s working to end hunger

Katie's Krops started with a cabbage seedling, and has grown into a nationwide nonprofit

Katie Stagliano, center, launched a network of youth growers who manage their own gardens. In 2017 Katie’s Krops Growers donated 39,000 pounds of fresh produce to local organizations. Photo courtesy of Katie's Krops

EDITOR'S NOTE

Meet the finalists for The Renewal Awards, a project of The Atlantic and Allstate. These individuals are the forces behind the 25 nonprofits competing for $150,000 in grant money. Ten winners will be announced March 27 at The Renewal Summit in New Orleans, on TheAtlantic.com, and here, on The Renewal Project.

The idea for Katie’s Krops started with a cabbage seeding planted by founder Katie Stagliano when she was just 9 years old. Ten years later, Katie’s Krops empowers youth to start and maintain vegetable gardens and donate the harvest to help feed people in need.

Stagliano is now a freshman at College of Charleston and is still actively involved in running Katie’s Krops. We asked the 19-year-old what inspired her to begin serving her community at such a young age and what keeps her going. The following is an edited and condensed version of that conversation. Learn more about Katie’s Krops on Facebook and follow @KatiesKrops on Twitter.

Tell us about Katie’s Krops:

Katie’s Krops is my project and my passion. The mission of Katie’s Krops is to empower youth to start and maintain vegetable gardens of all sizes and donate the harvest to help feed people in need, as well as to assist and inspire others to do the same. Our youth growers start and grow vegetable gardens and donate the whole harvest to soup kitchens, homeless shelters, food pantries, backpack programs, cancer centers and directly to families in need. There are Katie’s Krops gardens growing across the country from coast to coast and empower youth to get outside and grow.

Describe your community. Who are they?

My community is my family of young growers and our supporters including parents, teachers, grandparents, mentors, master gardeners, neighbors, and friends who come together to grow a healthy end to hunger one vegetable garden at a time. We are kids who believe that we can make a difference in the world. We are as young as seven years old, and we are helping to put healthy food on the tables of people struggling with hunger all across the country.

What inspired you to start Katie’s Krops?

I started my work when I was just 9 years old. In the third grade, I received a tiny cabbage seedling from the Bonnie Plants 3rd Grade Cabbage Program. I brought home my seedling and along with my 4-year-old brother planted it is a sunny corner of my backyard. I cared for my cabbage and watched it grow and grow. When a neighbor shared that there were deer in the neighborhood my grandfather and I took action. We built a cabbage cage around my cabbage using chicken wire and lumber. The cage did the trick, and no deer ate my cabbage.

What inspires me to do this work is the people I help and the children who find great joy digging in the dirt and planting the seeds of change.

My father always shared with my brother and I that we were blessed to sit down to a healthy meal every night. He told us that many families struggle with hunger and were unable to eat three meals a day. My father’s words echoed in my head as I decided in my heart what I should do with my cabbage. I would share it with families struggling with hunger.

On a beautiful day in May of 2018, my family and I harvested my cabbage, loaded it up in our SUV and drove to Tri-County Family Ministries. I was greeted by the most wonderful woman who was the director of the soup kitchen. She gave me a tour and decided that we should weigh my massive cabbage to see just how big it was. The numbers ticked up on the scale until it reached 40 pounds! I had grown a 40-pound cabbage! Then the director asked if I could return to the soup kitchen to help serve my cabbage. She wanted me to see the impact my cabbage would have. Two days later I had the honor of returning and serving my cabbage to 275 guests of the soup kitchen. That day transformed my life. At just 9 years old, I knew I wanted to and needed to do more. I set my sights on starting a vegetable garden and donating my whole harvest to feed families in need. Ten years later there are Katie’s Krops gardens growing coast to coast.

What inspires your work today?

My 40-pound-cabbage was my original inspiration, but as I began to grow and share my harvest, my inspiration became the people that I share my fruits and vegetables with. My inspiration is the single mother who is working three jobs but still struggles to purchase groceries to feed her children. My inspiration is the senior citizen who does not have the funds for food at the end of the month. My inspiration is the family who is battling a cancer diagnosis and must choose between lifesaving medication or food. What inspires me to do this work is the people I help and the children who find great joy digging in the dirt and planting the seeds of change.

What ways are you helping to make your community thrive?

I am helping my community thrive by getting kids outside, allowing them to be active, and teaching them lifelong lessons on how to care for the earth so that the earth can provide nutrient-rich food for those in need. I am helping my community by providing healthy fresh produce to people faced with food insecurity.

What do you love about your community?

I love how passionate my community is. I love that there are kids all across the country who want to become Katie’s Krops Growers and want to help people in need. Most of all I love how many people believe in the power of youth. From the moment I grew my cabbage people were put in my path to guide and support me. I would not be where I am today without the support of the most amazing people from all walks of life and of all ages. Most of all I would like to thank my parents. They have believed in me and transformed their lives to allow me to follow my dream to end hunger.

What’s one thing you want outsiders to know about your community?

I would love for everyone to know just how powerful youth are. We may be young, but we are determined to improve the health of our communities by providing nutrient-rich food to those who are struggling with food insecurity. In 2017 Katie’s Krops Growers donated 39,000 pounds of fresh produce. We have Growers who have been growing with us for seven years now. Working together we are a powerful force, and we can make a tremendous positive impact in our communities and in our world.

Margaret Myers

Margaret Myers

Margaret Myers is the editor of The Renewal Project.