What does food insecurity look like to you? Does it look like your neighbor? The person sitting next to you in church? Your child’s classmates? Food insecurity looks like all of us. Far too many families are one paycheck or one illness away from hunger. A choice between food, rent and utilities is a choice that many families are forced to make regularly, and appearances can be deceiving. At a very young age, I learned food insecurity does not always fit a stereotype, and I have made it my life’s mission ensure no family has to struggle to put food on their table.
Call it a happy accident, or perhaps fate stepping in to guide me down a path, but at just nine years old I learned that I could help to end hunger, but when I was in the third grade, I grew a forty pound cabbage in my backyard. I knew that my massive cabbage was meant for more than just my family, and I made the decision to donate to a soup kitchen after recalling the words that my father often shared; “We are very blessed to have a healthy meal every night. There are many families that struggle with hunger.”
I called on my mom to find a home for my cabbage and she found, Tri County Family Ministries. My story could have ended there, a nine year old doing a good deed by delivering a mammoth cabbage to a soup kitchen. But fate stepped in again when the director of the soup kitchen, Mrs. Sue, said the words that would transform my perspective: “It is not enough to just donate your cabbage, you need to come back, serve it and meet the people who you have helped.” My parents agreed and I returned to Tri County two days later.
I pulled on plastic gloves, grabbed a large ladle, sat on a wooden stool and served my cabbage, paired with ham and rice, to every guest. That day, my cabbage helped to feed 275 guests of the soup kitchen.
On that day I learned what the faces of hunger look like. I also realized that I had found a way to help end hunger. I could grow an end to hunger, one vegetable garden at a time.
It has been eight years since that transformative day. What started with a cabbage has grown into my not-for-profit organization, Katie’s Krops. Today, 100 youth-based gardens are growing across the United States, where the whole harvest is donated to feed families in need.
The mission of Katie’s Krops is to empower youth to start and maintain vegetable gardens of all sizes and donate the harvest to help feed people in need, wherever the need exists, and to assist and inspire others to do the same.
Youth across the country are now growing a healthy and fresh end to hunger. Fresh produce is filling food banks, soup kitchens and school food pantries in order to provide nutrient-rich produce to those struggling with food insecurity. While emergency food programs benefit from the fresh produce, the youth who grow the gardens benefit in many ways as well. Young Katie’s Krops growers gain an understanding of agriculture, nutrition, responsibility and budgeting. One of the most important skills they learn is that they too, at a very young age, can positively impact families struggling with hunger in their communities.
I receive notes from time to time…
Earlier this year, I had been laid off from work with a mountain of medical debt, and no food. Thankfully, I received help from you. Words cannot express how deeply grateful I am for your assistance to see me through. May God continue to bless you for all that you do. I will always be grateful.
One hundred gardens is just the start. With help from volunteers and donors, we continue to grow, further our impact on food insecurity and allow children to be part of the solution to a global problem. Food preservation specialist Sub-Zero is supporting our efforts in a big way and you can, by sharing the hashtag #FreshFoodMatters on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Each time you do, Sub-Zero will donate $5, up to $25,000. That’s 25 new Katie’s Krops youth run gardens in 25 new communities that will benefit from greater access to fresh food.
Gardens are a wonderful solution to food insecurity because fresh food matters. The day I donated my cabbage, I learned how much a simple meal could change the course of someone’s day. I also learned that I, had the ability to make an impact. I wanted to, I needed to help. I hope you will help, too, by learning more about the impact of fresh food at FreshFoodMatters.com and by sharing why this issue is important to you, using #FreshFoodMatters.