What do a nine-year-old girl, a 40-pound cabbage and 100 vegetable gardens have to do with ending hunger in America? Well, Katie Stagliano’s story will connect the dots.
When she was a third-grader at Pinewood Preparatory School in Summerville, S.C., 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. “Forty pounds is ginormous for a cabbage!” Katie explained during a “Christopher Closeup” interview.
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 Tricounty Family Ministries. The soup kitchen’s grateful 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 in line. The faces looked like families just like mine. 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 moment inspired the youngster to create Katie’s Krops, a 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. Instead, 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.
“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,” Katie said. “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. They have 100 gardens in 32 states—and they’re still adding more!
That mission spread even further with the publication of the children’s book “Katie’s Cabbage,” which won a Christopher Award. Katie, now 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.”
Rossi is director of communications for The Christophers. For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Leadership in Mercy, write The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org