When I was 9 years old, I grew a solution to a problem I didn’t even know existed. At nine, my focus was on what game I would play at recess and sleepovers with friends. Battling hunger, well that was the furthest thing from my mind. That all changed the day my teacher handed me at tiny cabbage seedling.
I was in the third grade when I brought home three green leaves, nestled in a tiny peat pot from school as part of the Bonnie Plants Third Grade Cabbage program. As instructed by my teacher, I planted the tiny plant in my backyard to see what would grow. What grew was a colossal 40 pound cabbage! Moved by my father’s words to never waste because there were people who went to bed hungry, I donated my cabbage to a soup kitchen where it fed 275 people. That day forever shaped by life. I, just a nine-year-old, had a way to help end hunger, to help the families at the soup kitchen. I could grow an end to hunger, one vegetable garden at a time.
I am now 17 years old and my dream continues to grow, from one garden at the age of nine to over 80 gardens at the age of 17. Katie’s Krops, the organization that I founded, empowers youth to grow a healthy end to hunger by starting vegetable gardens and donating the harvest to feed those in need. We are thousands strong and provide food banks, including many Feeding America food banks, with our harvest. The harvest from my flagship garden in Summerville, South Carolina benefits the monthly food distribution at St. Paul Church in partnership with Feeding America and the Lowcountry Food Bank. Young Katie’s Krops growers, kids all across the United States, are learning about agriculture, science, nutrition, compassion and responsibility while providing fresh produce to families struggling with hunger.
Madi from North Carolina is 12 and grows her Katie’s Krops garden in her backyard. This year she, with the help of her grandparents, grew an amazing 2,400 pounds of produce for her neighbors in need. In Georgia, the Katie’s Krops Garden has been growing for five years. The volunteers who keep the garden growing and thriving are third graders at Rocky Branch Elementary. Their harvest benefits their classmates and on Friday afternoons the students cook with the vegetables in order to send home fully prepared meals to families who struggle with hunger. Our 2016 grant cycle is now open to children ages nine to 16 across the United States who want to grow a healthy end to hunger in their community. The application can be found following this link.
My journey, now eight-years long, has been more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. I have received more than I have given. The families that benefit from the harvest have become my friends and supporters – they have become my chosen family. The kids across the country that grow Katie’s Krops gardens have become my growing family. I have been blessed that an amazing filmmaker, Jesse Roesler asked to document my journey in his award-winning feature-length documentary The Starfish Throwers.
The Starfish Throwers captures my journey, as well as the efforts of two amazing hunger trailblazers with whom I am honored to be forever connected. Our journeys, be it half a world away from one another, are forever linked through the film—which will release digitally On Demand on World Food Day, October 16, 2015.
Looking back on the film and my journey, I am reminded of the importance of giving back to your community, and the wonderful gift that giving back can provide to you. It might make me a bit selfish, but the feeling that I get a lot from giving back – the smiles on the faces of those in need, the thank yous and the hugs make me feel as though I’m receiving more than I’m giving. I encourage everyone to find their passion and follow their dreams, because there is truly nothing greater than knowing you’ve made a difference in your community.
*Katie Stagliano is the founder of Katie's Krops.Tags: Hunger Heroes , Take Action