Katie's Krops Founder On Gardening For the Hungry!

Katie Stagliano is the 15-year-old founder of Katie's Krops, a series of vegetable gardens that grow produce to donate to soup kitchens and more across the U.S. to feed the hungry and those in need!Katie's Krops- Katie Stagliano

We spoke with Katie about the origin of Katie's Krops, and about why gardening is so important!

It started when Katie brought home and planted a cabbage seedling as part of the Bonnie Plants 3rd Grade Cabbage Program. Katie took very precise care of the cabbage plant, and to her surprise it grew to a whopping 40 pounds!

"I didn't physically think a vegetable could grow to be that big in the first place," she said. "Even more surprising, it happened to me."

As far as Katie knows, none of her classmates' cabbages grew even close to that size.

"I talked to my friends afterward, and they told me that their dog sat on their cabbage, or they forgot to water it, or they forgot to even plant it," she said.

With a massive 40-pound cabbage growing in her backyard, Katie decided to put it to good use.

"My dad always told us not to waste, because there are people out there who don't have enough to eat and who rely on soup kitchens for what could be their only meal of the day," Katie explained. "I thought, I have this giant cabbage, it's way too big for my family to eat, so what if i give it to those people?"

She decided the cabbage belonged in one of those soup kitchens. Katie worked with her brother and her dad to cut the cabbage out of the ground and heave it into a wheelbarrow before driving the cabbage to the soup kitchen in the back of a giant SUV.

There, the cabbage helped to feed more than 275 people.

The experience inspired Katie to start vegetable gardens to grow crops especially to feed the patrons of soup kitchens and homeless shelters as well as cancer patients and anyone else in need. The idea eventually turned into Katie's Krops, which now has more than 60 youth gardens running across the nation.

It also taught Katie about the important balance between gardens and the food we all eat.

"Sometimes you don't make the connection that the food you get at the grocery store was planted in a garden," she said. "I think growing that cabbage really made me appreciate foods in the grocery store and all the food that you eat, the gardening process, and all the hard work and dedication that goes into that."

Since then, none of Katie's cabbages have grown quite as big as the first cabbage that inspired her to create Katie's Krops, though from time to time a whopping 20-pound cabbage will emerge from her garden.

Though they don't always keep track and measure donations, Katie estimates that the dozens of youth gardens across the United States involved in Kate's Krops have donated tens of thousands of pounds of produce.

"I would rather donate produce at the peak of freshness, when it has more nutrition value, than to weight it and have it wait a couple of days before it gets to the people that need it," she said.

Katie's school garden at Pinewood Preparatory School donated more than 3000 pounds of produce one year.

Plant and veggie producer Bonnie Plants remains an integral part of Katie's dedication to feeding the hungry. Since the first cabbage seedling donated by Bonnie Plants, they have continued to provide gardening supplies for Katie's Krops.

"They first were an inspiration to me to start Katie's Krops," Katie said. "They've been really supportive with donating seedlings and helping us provide for the vegetable gardens."

Katie's endeavors have grown from a single garden at her school to more than 60 have resulted from spreading the word, and passion for such a great cause.

"We try to inspire other people to donate their produce to those in need," she said. "Some people think they're only donating a couple of tomatoes, but you can help to feed someone who may not eat otherwise that day. We try to let them know that as small as they think donating a couple of vegetables is, they're really making a difference."

So many meals later, Katie is really feeling the impact of her work.

"It feels incredible to know that you're making a big difference in your community and across the United States," she said. "It's amazing to know you're helping feed someone, and that you're feeding them healthy, fresh produce."

Katie has also learned the true meaning of teamwork through her work with Katie's Krops.

"I couldn't do any of this without my friends and family," she said. "Everyone that supports me is helping me make all this all possible I couldn't do any of this by myself without that support."

Katie's Krops is also currently sponsoring their 2014 grant cycle with the help of Tasteful Selections and BI-LO!  Together they are offering grants to young people in the U.S. between the ages of 9 and 16 who start vegetable gardens to donate fruits and veggies to people in need! Click here for details!

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