Katie Stagliano, 15, of Summerville, S.C., a freshman at Pinewood Preparatory School, established a nonprofit organization that has helped kids across the country create and maintain more than 60 vegetable gardens, which have yielded thousands of pounds of fresh produce to feed people in need. Katies gardening career began in the third grade when she brought home from school a cabbage seedling that shed been given to plant. I tended to my cabbage and cared for it until it grew to an amazing 40 pounds, said Katie. She then took her cabbage to a local soup kitchen, where it helped feed 275 hungry people. I began to wonder: if one cabbage could feed 275 people, imagine how many people a whole garden could feed, she said.
She planted a garden in her backyard, then asked her schools administration if she could start a student-run garden there. Her school gave her a plot of land the length of a football field, and classmates pitched in to help. Realizing she needed to learn more about gardening, Katie contacted the master gardener at Clemson University, who took her under her wing. Before long the garden was supplying fresh produce to the soup kitchen and a local homeless shelter, which soon planted its own garden with Katies help. Five years later, Katies Krops is a nonprofit organization that has raised over $250,000 through a website and individual and corporate donations to provide grants for 9-to-16-year-olds who want to grow vegetables to feed the hungry in their communities. Thanks to her efforts, 61 youth-run gardens are growing from Maine to Hawaii. As for Katies first garden, it is still flourishing, producing over 3,000 pounds of produce last year for people in need. And when the local soup kitchen closed down three years ago, Katie began offering garden-to-table dinners that have provided a free, nutritious meal to more than 2,000 hungry people. I am proud to grow healthy food, prevent hunger and empower kids to grow a healthy end to hunger in their communities, said Katie.