Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Katie Stagliano. Read her story and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.
The average grocery store cabbage weighs a couple of pounds. So when Katie Stagliano grew a 40-pound cabbage in her home garden as a 3rd grader, she knew she had to share the bountiful crop. 275 people fed later at a local soup kitchen, the now 21-year-old Summerville, South Carolina resident says she realized the power of her harvest.
“I brought home this cabbage seedling as part of a school project, and planted it in our backyard, watering and weeding around it every day. Once it grew into a 40-pound cabbage, we knew it was far too big for just my family. It really opened my eyes to hunger. If one cabbage can feed 275 people, imagine how many people an entire garden could feed. That was the inspiration for my volunteerism. I wanted to help feed people in need.”
Launching Katie’s Krops in 2008 with the idea that “it only takes a seedling”, Katie, who serves as founder and chief executive gardener, has inspired hundreds of other gardeners, growing to include vegetable gardens of all sizes in 30 states across the country. Katie’s Krops “Growers”, aged 9-16 from California to Washington to Texas, run gardens in their backyards, school yards, and anywhere they can get permission to grow produce, their healthy harvests donated to help food insecure individuals and families. In total, Katie says 250,000-pounds of produce have been donated since 2008, not just feeding hungry mouths, but also changing the future for thousands of people in the U.S., says Katie’s Krops Grower Ian McKenna, a 15-year-old volunteer from Austin, Texas.
“Katie’s Krops has helped many, many, many people. I’ve grown thousands of pounds of produce to donate to people who are struggling with food insecurity. The food I am bringing them helps in more ways than just feeding them. If a kid receives our food, it helps them with school because I know if I’m at school and I haven’t eaten for awhile, I have trouble focusing. That, by extension, is helping their future.”
Feeding some of the more than one in ten U.S. households that experienced food insecurity in 2018 with fresh vegetables including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beans, eggplant, okra and more, Katie says that her dream of growing a healthy end to hunger, one vegetable garden at a time, is slowly becoming a reality.
“When I first began this service, I wasn’t really aware of the issue of hunger, food insecurity and how it affects families. People who have lost their jobs are dealing with medical bills and are worried about putting food on the table. (Katie’s Krops) has opened up my eyes to not only the problems the world is facing but also the amazing people who are passionate about making a difference and the changes we are able to make.”
Those changes are far reaching and yet personal for Katie, who is able to interact with recipients of her fresh vegetables.
“I met a little girl at an event we hosted at a vacation bible school. The little girl raised her hand and said she didn’t have any questions for me, she just wanted to tell me that I was awesome. She walked up to me with a sticker that said “love” on it, and she gave me a hug and put the sticker on my heart. After all the kids left the room one of the counselors explained to me that the vegetables I’d brought for the event to help feed a homeless family were given to that little girl’s family. The family had been struggling to put food on the table. It’s heartbreaking to see that families just like mine have fallen on hard times and I know the solution starts with just one seedling to start helping these people.”
And now, as she continues her work to end hunger, Katie is adjusting her organization’s offerings to make sure hungry families can still receive food amidst the coronavirus pandemic, swapping what used to be a monthly garden to table dinner for weekly drive-up dinners for her community.
“Since in-person dinners are no longer possible, we are now doing weekly drive-up dinners every Thursday. For the past two months, we’ve been creating the meals and boxing them up for distribution to families in South Carolina. There are so many individuals out of work and out of school and struggling, so we want to be there for them. We’ve been trying to do fun and different meals while also keeping everyone’s meals healthy to keep everyone’s immune systems up. We’ve served two-thousand meals thus far and we will continue doing this for as long as it’s necessary.”
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Katie Stagliano? Find local volunteer opportunities.