By KimberMarie Faircloth
It all started with just one seedling — a cabbage seedling, in fact. Katie Stagliano, 18 and a student at the College of Charleston, began her very own nonprofit in the third grade. She was inspired when she grew a 40-pound cabbage that she ended up donating to Tri-County Family Ministries, a nonprofit that provides food, medical assistance and other services to the impoverished citizens of the tri-county area. Katie knew that this was the right thing to do and that others could also do what she had done. So she set out to change the way children of all ages view gardening and to help people suffering from hunger. As she states on her website, her dream “is that there are no hungry people,” a large feat Katie is not scared to tackle.
Currently, Katie’s Krops is a nonprofit that helps people start their own community gardens to grow food for those in need. It also provides education and speaking events to those interested in learning more about how to start their own Katie’s Krops garden and the benefits that gardening brings. Right now, the organization has 100 gardens in 33 states, but that is not enough: “My goal is to have 500 gardens in all 50 states.” Katie ended up choosing to attend College of Charleston so she could stay close to home to continue her work with her nonprofit and achieving these numbers.
The benefits of community gardens is far more than just providing food. Katie’s Krops aims to foster education in gardening and on how healthy foods are grown. Gardens bring unity among community members, and the organization encourages them to branch out to take care of strangers who are suffering from hunger. One of the top issues concerning Katie is food waste. Many of the impoverished families she has come to work with use food stamps, which only allow a certain amount of food, forcing them to buy cheaper, usually unhealthier options. Other families might be able to afford buying from local farmers or in the produce section at grocery stores, where most of America’s food actually goes to waste due to beauty standards on produce. There is enough to go around; the problem arises with making sure it gets to those who need it. Katie’s Krops stresses the idea that we should focus on our neighbors who do not have the ability to buy homegrown, healthy foods and helping them have access to those.
This can be done by volunteering, cutting down on our own personal food waste or starting your own garden for Katie’s Krops. “Gardening has allowed me to eat new fruits and vegetables … growing your own inspires you to try new things and have a wider variety in your diet. It helps you eat healthier and it’s fun to garden” — a lesson Katie hopes more children and families will learn through this nonprofit. She feels that when a child starts a garden with the goal of helping others they will understand that they can have an impact on the world. It’s a big lesson to learn at young ages, but one most needed today.
Another important lesson that Katie has taught through her actions is leadership, and from a very young age as well. She observed an issue and found a solution to that issue that she could teach others to create. Katie took it on herself to start something she knew would pass it forward and that she could grow as she got older. Being a freshman in college, Katie has a few words of wisdom for her fellow students and citizens: “You shouldn’t look at the obstacles, definitely follow your dream and your heart. If you don’t go for it, you’ll never know what you can achieve.” She’s a believer in focusing on the positive and the ways we each are affecting the world.
To learn about how you can get your own garden started or how you can help support Katie’s Krops, please visit www.katieskrops.com.
Writer KimberMarie Faircloth is a student at the College of Charleston and is a frequent contributor for Oblique Magazine.