It started with a desire to feed hungry people in her community. But thirteen years later, Katie Stagliano says it is the life-changing relationships that have made the biggest difference.
“This has become so much more than providing vegetables,” Katie says. “I’ve built bonds with people who are now like my family. That was something I never expected.”
Those close-knit relationships have grown Katie into the woman she is today. And they’ve shown her just how much gardening can bring people together.
A nine year old and a cabbage plant
Katie is the founder and chief executive gardener of Katie’s Krops, a nonprofit in Summerville, South Carolina. Her organization is fighting hunger by encouraging kids across the U.S. to garden and donate the harvest to people in need. It’s a mission that got its roots when Katie was a young girl.
In third grade, Katie was given a cabbage plant by her teacher, as part of our partner Bonnie Plants’ Third Grade Cabbage Program. With a little love and care, her tiny seedling soon blossomed into a huge 40-pound cabbage. The cabbage was too big for her own family to eat, so she came up with an idea.
“Every night at dinner, my dad would talk about how lucky we were to have food on our table,” says Katie. “I was inspired by my dad and decided to donate my cabbage to families who didn’t have enough to eat.”
Katie’s mom helped her find a local soup kitchen. Together, they dropped off the cabbage and then came back later that night to help serve it. Katie’s cabbage fed over 250 guests.
“The whole experience opened my eyes to hunger,” says Katie. “There were kids just like me in line at the soup kitchen. I saw how my cabbage was transformed to feed people. And I started thinking about how many people a whole garden could feed.”
Free meals create lasting bonds
That next year, in 2009, she started Katie’s Krops, and today, 22-year old Katie is not easing up on her mission to feed the hungry. Her organization now has 100 gardens across the country and has donated thousands and thousands of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to people in need.
Katie even started her own free meal distribution program when the local soup kitchen closed its doors ten years ago.
“I couldn’t let people have nowhere to turn,” she says. “I rallied my school friends and family. We used produce from our gardens and supplemented it with food from the grocery store.”
Soon they were cooking and passing out free hot, healthy meals to people in the community. The first year, they served approximately 150–250 people at a dinner once a month. Flash forward to 2020 and Katie’s Krops distributed over 18,000 meals to people in need throughout Summerville and the surrounding areas at weekly dinners. Since the beginning of the meal program, Katie’s Krops has provided over 30,000 meals to those in need. It was through the meal distribution program that Katie created lasting relationships.
“This program has opened me up so much to my community,” Katie says. “Each week, I get to know the people who come for meals. Over the years, they’ve watched me grow up. And I’ve been there when people have come out of homelessness, gotten jobs and had babies. Through hard times and great times, we support each other like family.”
Spreading the power of gardens
Katie’s seen firsthand how gardens bring people together. And she wants other communities to experience it too. That’s why she’s committed to helping as many kids as possible start gardens. She recently welcomed 75 new Katie’s Krops Growers into the family, and in 2021, there will be over 100 Katie’s Krops gardens across the United States.
“My goal is to have a Katie Krop’s garden in all 50 states,” she says. “And to even go international. I know it’s a big goal, but I think if we all work together, we can help one another and end hunger.”
At ScottsMiracle-Gro, we are committed to bringing the powerful, life-enhancing benefits of community gardens and greenspaces to 10 million children by 2023. That’s why The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation, along with our partners at KidsGardening, launched the GroMoreGood Grassroots Grant Program to support garden projects like Katie’s Krops.