Hometown: Summerville, S.C.
Cause: Healthy produce for low-income families
Participating in a school gardening project in the third grade, Katie Stagliano grew a cabbage that topped out at 40 pounds. At her father’s encouragement, Stagliano donated the cabbage to a soup kitchen, where it helped feed 275 people. After realizing how many people one (very large) cabbage could feed, she decided to see how many people one garden could feed. Using a football-field-sized plot of land donated by her school, Pinewood Prep, Stagliano created Katie’s Krops to get other kids interested in helping people through gardening.
Today, that garden supplies about 3,000 pounds of produce annually to Tricounty Family Ministries in North Charleston, to the Summerville Baptist Church, and directly to families in need. And like that cabbage, Katie’s Krops has grown far bigger. Through its website, Katie’s Krops has raised over $300,000 to enable 9-to-16-year-olds to grow vegetables to feed the hungry in their own communities. Currently there are 80 youth-run gardens in 29 states.
This month, a new chapter has opened up in Stagliano’s life — almost literally. The University of South Carolina Press has published a picture book, Katie’s Cabbage, telling the story of how Stagliano got started on her gardening mission.
Now a high school sophomore, Stagliano remembers writing a draft of the book several years ago but not doing anything with it until after she met Patricia Moore-Pastides, the wife of the president of the University of South Carolina. The two made their acquaintance about five years ago, when Moore-Pastides, an avid gardener herself, visited Pinewood Prep and got a guided tour of the garden from Stagliano. Later on, Stagliano and her mother visited the UofSC first lady at the Columbia campus. “She had some amazing gardens,” says Katie.
Eventually, Moore-Pastides connected Stagliano with the campus press. Stagliano hopes that the resulting book — which tells the story of Katie and that first cabbage, from planting to eating — will inspire other children to think, “Hey, if she could do it, and she was only nine years old, so can I.”
Publishing the book, which Stagliano wrote with Michelle H. Martin, and which is illustrated by Karen Heid, has been “a long process,” Stagliano says. “But it’s definitely well worth it.”
As for her gardening, Stagliano said in December that it was still going strong at both her home and her school. The season is over for the tomato and pepper plants, but not for lettuce and cabbage. “We’re still growing here,” she says. “We tend to have a weird winter season.”