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Sometimes an oversized cabbage is all it takes to start a movement.
Katie Stagliano, a 14-year-old girl from Summerville, S.C., planted a cabbage in her family’s garden four years ago and with a bit of help — and a lot of love — Stagliano’s cabbage grew to a healthy size. Then one day, a neighbor came by and told Stagliano that he’d seen a deer snooping around her garden.
“My grandfather and I took action. We decided to build a cage for [the cabbage],” Stagliano recalls on her website. “We had four wooden posts…with chicken wire spread from one corner to another…it worked.”
When the cabbage reached the 40-pound mark, Stagliano knew she had to do something. She tracked down a soup kitchen near her home called Tri County Family Ministries, which took her cabbage. The kitchen turned Stagliano’s cabbage into a soup that was used to feed 275 hungry people.
“That day at Tri County Family Ministries, my dream was born,” says Stagliano. “My dream is for no hungry people.”
Stagliano convinced her elementary school to open a community garden and donate a large plot of land for growing vegetables. She contacted a local agricultural group, Fields to Farmers, and persuaded them to fund a master gardener to tend to the school’s plot.
“Growing vegetables is fun and it’s so great to help people,” says Stagliano. “It doesn’t take a huge garden, just a pot on your front porch with one vegetable plant can make a difference.”
Soon Stagliano’s mission to feed the hungry began to blossom, just like a well-tended garden. By 2010, Stagliano and her staff had provided soup kitchens with more than 2,000 pounds of lettuce, tomatoes, and other vegetables. To help grow her organization, Stagliano started a non-profit, Katie’s Krops, which offers grants to young students to help start their own community vegetable gardens. Thanks to her work, there are now 51 kid-run vegetable gardens across 21 states.
“She is showing that you can help other people no matter how young you are,” says Eloise Mackey, a 49-year-old low-income mother of two who receives weekly vegetable deliveries from one of the farms. “I love her vegetables.”
In September 2012, the Clinton Global Initiative honored Stagliano with a Global Citizen Award for her leadership. At the awards ceremony, Clinton said that Stagliano was “on pace to take my job before she turns 16.”
In her acceptance speech, Stagliano said:
“My dream started small, and grew as the seed spread.” Now her dream is to bring Katie’s Krops to all 50 states.
But in spite of her success, Stagliano is committed to personally growing food for her cause.
“I want more people to get involved, more people to help in the fight against hunger, and if I can do it, anyone can.”
©2013 Community News Group
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