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Katie StaglianoKatie Stagliano

Have you ever wanted to make a difference in the world but weren't sure where to start? Katie Stagliano proves that starting small can lead to big changes. In third grade, Katie planted a cabbage seed. She watched it grow to an unexpected 40 pounds! Katie brought it to her local soup kitchen, and it helped feed 275 people. She realized she could help feed more people by growing more vegetables. That's why Katie started Katie's Krops, an organization that works to end hunger. Through her program, kids and teens across the country plant gardens to help feed people who need fresh, healthy food. Read Katie's interview to hear how she got started and her advice for giving back and reaching your goals.

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How old are you?

I'm 20.

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Will you tell us about the organization you started?

I started Katie's Krops to empower other kids and teens to plant vegetable gardens that can feed people in need. Currently, there are 100 Katie's Krops Gardens across the country. All of the food we grow and pick is given to cancer centers and emergency food programs, which give families in need free and low-cost food. In 2017, the kids and teens who are part of Katie's Krops, who we call Growers, donated over 40,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to help end hunger.

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What inspired you to start Katie's Krops?

The idea for Katie's Krops began when I was in the third grade. In 2008, I brought home a small cabbage seed from school as part of a gardening project. I took care of my cabbage until it grew to an amazing 40 pounds. (They usually just weigh a couple pounds!) Knowing the cabbage was special, I donated it to a local soup kitchen. It helped feed 275 guests. I thought, "If one cabbage can feed this many people, imagine how many a whole garden could feed!" I decided that day to start a vegetable garden and donate everything I grew to those in need. That was the start of my dream to end hunger one vegetable garden at a time.

I started with a garden in my backyard but knew I wanted to do more. In the fourth grade, I asked my school if I could start a vegetable garden there, and they loved the idea. My school gave me a plot of land the size of a football field. I turned it into a large garden with the help of classmates and teachers.

In middle school and high school, I started more gardens in South Carolina at farms, schools, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and private homes. But I dreamed of having gardens across the United States. To make this happen, Katie's Krops gave other kids grants to start gardens in their communities. Kids had to send in applications to win these grants, which gave them a sum of money to start their projects. As of spring 2018, over 30 states have Katie's Krops Gardens.

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Why is healthy eating important to you and how are you helping people do it?

Healthy eating can help you look and feel your best — and even help prevent diseases. Part of practicing healthy eating habits includes getting plenty of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables have tons of vitamins and minerals that help you grow and stay healthy. The problem is that not everyone can get fresh fruits and vegetables. They may not be able to afford them, or they don't live near a store that sells them. At Katie's Krops, we want to make sure that everyone has fresh, healthy food that tastes great. Every one of our gardens makes a difference in its community. We bring fresh food to people who might not otherwise be able to get it. Plus, at Katie's Krops, we also provide kids and teens a chance to get outside and exercise while they're working in the gardens.

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What is the most rewarding part about your work? And what has been the most challenging part?

The most rewarding part is building relationships with the people we help at Katie's Krops. They have become my extended family. We share good times and are there for each other during hard times. I have learned so much from them. I also have been truly honored and blessed to have so many wonderful kids across the country want to come together to help end hunger. Working together, we are a powerful team!

The most challenging part is working to raise money to keep up our current gardens while starting new ones. It's challenging but so worthwhile because I believe our gardens are helping fight hunger.

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How do you balance school and your nonprofit work along with all of your commitments?

I am very lucky to have a supportive family and a wonderful community who helps keep Katie's Krops growing, but it isn't always easy. There is never enough time and saying "no" to anything breaks my heart, but it is important to find balance.

When I was in elementary school, my principal believed in me and said that Katie's Krops would help me learn skills beyond what I could learn in the classroom. Because of this, my school allowed me to travel and take time away from the classroom to grow my dream to end hunger. I had the best of both worlds, and for that, I am forever grateful.

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You've done so much incredible work already. What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of how our Growers are changing the health of communities. We are putting fruits and vegetables on the tables of families, seniors, veterans, and individuals who are facing hunger. In over 10 years, we have donated more than 250,000 pounds of healthy, fresh food.

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What are your future goals?

I am focused on finishing college and growing Katie's Krops. My goal is to have at least one garden in all 50 states.

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What would you like girls to know about achieving their goals?

Believe in yourself. It won't always be easy but don't give up. The best advice I can give is to surround yourself with a strong support system of people who will lift you up and not bring you down. Find someone to help guide and support you, and dream big. You can do it!

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Find ideas for getting involved in your community and learn more about why eating healthy is so important.

Content last reviewed Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Page last updated Tuesday, November 27, 2018

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.