Katie’s Krops founder named a Southerner of the Year, produces record yield for the hungry

The Lowcountry has a Southerner of the Year in its backyard.

“Southern Living” named Katie Stagliano, who lives in downtown Charleston, one of its five Southern “trailblazers” making a difference in preserving history and culture, protecting the natural world, inspiring new generations of people into selfless service and providing food to those in need.

Stagliano checks two of those boxes with ease. She runs the nonprofit Katie’s Krops that operates a network of 100 community and backyard gardens in 33 states that range from a couple of raised beds to two acres.

Together, the network grew and donated 680,000 pounds of food to those people struggling with food insecurity since Stagliano first grew a 40-pound cabbage in 2008.

Those gardens happen because of the young people, mostly ages 7 to 16, inspired by her story of a 9-year-old girl turning a third grade project cabbage seedling at Pinewood Preparatory School into a meal for more than 200 people.

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Katie Stagliano, founder of Katie’s Krops, named ‘Southerner of the Year’ by Southern Living

Lowcountry native and Southern Magazine’s 2023 ‘Southerner of the Year’ sat down in our News 2 studios to tell us about her efforts in growing fresh produce and feeding people in the community.

Katie Stagliano, Founder and Chief Executive Gardener of ‘Katie’s Krops’, is reflecting on her record-breaking year in her flagship garden. Located in Summerville, Katie’s Krops grows thousands of pounds of fresh produce each year and feeds countless people across the U.S.

It all started in Katie’s backyard when she was in the 3rd grade. She grew a 40lb cabbage and donated it to a local soup kitchen, feeding over 270 people. Katie says she started a movement that changed her life forever.

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Southern Living 2023 Southerners Of The Year

Katie’s Krops

Summerville, South Carolina

Katie Stagliano found her calling at 9 years old when her third-grade teacher sent her home with a seedling for the backyard. Her tiny plant grew into a 40-pound cabbage. “I was shocked because I didn’t know they could get that big. But I realized that this one was far too large for my family to eat,” she says. Every night, her father would remind them just how lucky they were to sit down to a healthy dinner when some people were not able to.

“That’s how I got the idea that changed my life forever,” she says. “I donated my cabbage to a soup kitchen to help feed those who might not otherwise have a meal.” The director of the kitchen invited her to serve her cabbage in a soup with ham and rice. Stagliano remembers how surprised she was to see how many families just like hers were waiting in line for a meal. Because that one vegetable served 275 guests, she thought, “How many people could a garden feed?”

With the support of her parents, she launched Katie’s Krops. The idea took off when her school gave her a plot of land the size of a football field. Soon, the whole student body was involved. Katie’s Krops became an official nonprofit, and her message began to spread. Kids across the country reached out wanting to start their own gardens, so the organization began offering funding and support to Katie’s Krops Growers between the ages of 7 and 16.

Today, at 25 years old, Stagliano is at the helm of a project that includes 100 gardens in 33 states. Collectively, Katie’s Krops has donated around 600,000 pounds of produce—with no plans of slowing down. Stagliano says, “I would love to reach all 50 states and eventually expand internationally.”

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Six-year-old named Katie’s Krops Top Volunteer

A 6-year-old child is helping lead the charge to end hunger, as the Ridgeville-based Lily Hartline was recently recognized as Katie’s Krops’ Volunteer of the Year.

The youngest Katie’s Krops’ volunteer to ever receive the honor began contributing her services at the tender age of three alongside her mother, Erin Hartline, by delivering meals and more, according to the organization’s Chief Executive Gardner and Founder Katie Stagliano.

Located in Summerville, Katie’s Krops is a is a youth-based non-profit focused on cultivating and maintaining vegetable gardens in the interest of donating produce and inspiring others to follow the group’s lead.

Lily has subscribed to that mission of growing and giving back through her efforts of establishing a garden in her family’s backyard and donating what’s harvested.

Lily and her mom, it was noted, have distinguished themselves for supporting Katie’s Krops’ free garden-to-family dinners, which are provided to local individuals and families coping with hunger and various degrees of food insecurity and/or scarcity.

“Lily has always gone above and beyond with her kindness, generosity and dedication to helping her community,” reported Stagliano. She went on to recall how Lily arrived at a garden workday with every penny she had saved in her piggy bank to assist struggling families. “There was not a dry eye to be found.”

The altruistic youngster was also commended for spearheading a campaign to save monarch butterflies in the charitable organization’s flagship garden.

“Lily has the biggest heart and the sweetest spirit. I met Lily several years ago when she was 4-years-old and came to our garden to help with our MLK Day Service Project. Her mom shared that she was so excited to come after reading “Katie’s Cabbage,” that she got up at 3 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep,” related Stagliano.

In addition to the child’s hard work and diligence in supporting the needy, Lily was further cited for her contagious enthusiasm, which spreads smiles wherever she goes, per Stagliano, and has made the precocious little girl a friend to everyone she has met or worked with.

“She truly is proof that age is just a number. No matter how young or old you are, you can make a tremendous impact on the world,” added Stagliano.

Young sister from Aiken helping feed their community

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) – A pair of young sisters are gaining national recognition for growing fruits and vegetables to help feed their community.

We went to find out how their partnerships with organizations like Golden Harvest and other food banks are helping change lives.

For 7-year-old Eva and 12-year-old Norah Drumming, right in their backyard, fresh crops are growing in every corner.

They have cucumbers, melons, broccoli, potatoes, and more. It looks so good; even they can’t help themselves.

“I kind of like to eat it,” said Eva.

But there’s a reason they’re growing so many healthy foods.

Nora said: “It’s just to help out elderly people and people in need in the community.”

They’re part of Katie’s Krops, a youth-based nonprofit dedicated to ending hunger and helping the less fortunate. They were named National Grower of the Year and are the only first-year growers who have ever received this honor.

Selma Sullivan is their grandmother. She said, “I think it’s very important because it really teaches them to give and love others, and it’s teaching them how to live off the land.”

On Sundays, they’re at church handing out the produce. Even their neighbors get a surprise.

“We just love to see the smiles on their faces,” said Sullivan.

The Drumming sisters are helping to solve a bigger issue; food insecurity. Golden Harvest Food Bank says they’ve given out almost 3 million meals in Aiken County.

It’s all hands-on deck to help everyone in need.

Eva said: “I think it’s generous and kind.”

For generations, this family has done this, and they don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

Sullivan said: “We loved it, and we’re just keeping it going.”

Ethan Pappas – West Carrollton garden growing, giving back to community.

WEST CARROLLTON, Ohio (WDTN) — A garden behind West Carrollton High School is helping students grow while also giving back to the community. 

West Carrollton Computer Lab Coordinator Judi Brooks is the green thumb behind the Pirate Patch Garden, guiding its growth.

“I’m here pretty much every day doing something–if it’s just spraying for a squash bug or looking at what’s going on,” says Judi. “I’m always outside.”

Stemming from an idea to connect with nature, the first seeds were planted roughly seven years ago outside of the high school. Judi and another teacher started the garden to show students where their food comes from. 

“I had an interest in gardening and foraging,” says 10th grader Ethan Pappas. “I saw Judi working in the garden one day, just walking by, and I wanted to help do that.”

The Pirate Patch Garden started with a small “L” shape, first producing tomatoes. It’s since grown every year, now producing more than 1,000 pounds of food.

“We have pumpkins. We have kale, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes of course,” lists Judi. 

Roughly 20 students help with maintaining the garden. 

“I started to pick some of the carrots, and I fell in love with it, and it was so fun,” says 7th grader Connie Pappas, who volunteers in the garden. “On some days I’m ready to get dirty, and I don’t even go out with gloves.” 

Grant money from the nonprofit Katie’s Krops helps keep the garden growing. 

When crops are ripe, they’re harvested, weighed, and then donated. This year, the fresh food is going to West Carrollton’s food pantry. 

“This is how we’re supposed to live our lives to give back to others. I’m a very service-oriented person, and I like sharing my knowledge, but I’m a very earthy person,” states Judi. “My mom was a farm girl. I lived in West Carrollton my entire life. My grandmother was very much a plant person. But it’s just who I am. I mean I just feel so comfortable and so relaxed and I want the students to be able to experience too.”

The produce is taken to West Carrollton’s food pantry on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Empower Magazine – Interview with Katie Stagliano

Your dream to grow a healthy end to hunger began when you were nine years old. Most people at this age aren’t even fully aware about what ‘End Hunger’ is. What moment prompted you to realize how big of a problem global hunger is?

Katie: When I was nine years old, I wasn’t aware of just how many people hunger affected. When I brought my cabbage to Tri County Family Ministries in May of 2008, I saw first hand how many people were struggling with hunger and food insecurity. Seeing people from all walks of life and all ages in line for what might be their only meal of the day was a real eye opener for me. After seeing how my one cabbage helped to feed 275 people, I knew I needed to do more. If one cabbage could feed 275 people, imagine how many people an entire garden would help feed! The more time I spent donating my produce to those in need in the community, the more I learned that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Just because someone looks or acts a certain way, does not mean they are not struggling to put food on the table. People find themselves struggling with hunger and food insecurity for many different reasons and you never know what someone is going through until you take a walk in their shoes. For the past 13 years, I have been blessed to be able to meet some of the most amazing people who are going through times, and I feel so grateful to be able to do what I can to help them.

Do you think we can end world hunger by 2030?

Katie: I am a firm believer that working together, we can make a big difference in the fight against hunger! Hunger is a multifaceted issue and I do not believe just one approach can help to end it, however, as we work to face the root of the problem and come at it from every angle I believe we will make a tremendous impact. Working for the past 13 years to provide youth with a sustainable way to provide healthy, fresh produce to those in need in their communities, I’ve seen first hand the passion they have for helping others and their drive and determination. I am so excited for the future and to see the amazing ways we continue to fight to ensure nobody goes to bed hungry.

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Katie’s Krops Opens First Outdoor Classroom

SUMMERVILLE — This year, a town nonprofit welcomed its first community garden outdoor classroom. To keep it free, the organization is looking for a sponsor.

“It’s something that’s been a dream of ours for a very long time,” said Katie Stagliano, the founder of Katie’s Krops, an organization dedicated to building community gardens to support food giveaways.

At its flagship garden at Crossroads Community Church on Gahagan Road in Summerville, Katie’s Krops is giving people the opportunity to sign up for classes like gardening basics, yoga, art and safety.

Currently, all of the classes are free as a way to make sure everyone who is interested has access, organizers said. To fund needed classroom supplies, the nonprofit needs additional donations.

According to Stagliano, the people at Crossroads Community Church are what inspired them to do the current outdoor classroom. Another source of inspiration was the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past year, she said, children have been dealing with extended periods doing online schoolwork. And while schools in Dorchester District 2 have made a full return to in-person classes, a lot of parents have chosen to keep their children in the district’s virtual school program.

Organizers said they see the new outdoor classroom as a way for children to have fun learning while being able to practice social distancing.

Some of the classes include a safety talk from a Summerville police officer and a special story time with Stagliano.

“The availability of such a valuable resource is very exciting for me,” said Lisa Turocy, Katie’s Krops master gardener. “One of my personal goals is to continuously find ways of working with children in an educational environment.”

 

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Summerville’s Katie’s Krops reflects on over a decade of national community garden work

By Jerrel Floyd from The Post and Courier | Sep 30, 2020

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SUMMERVILLE — Not many people can say they were internationally recognized for their service, created a program that spans across the United States or are a published author.

Summerville native Katie Stagliano did all three by the time she was 21.

“Age is just a number,” she said. “You will be amazed at what you can accomplish.”

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Katie Stagliano (left) and her mother, Stacy, remove tree roots from a tiller they were using to break up soil in a garden bed on Wednesday Sept. 23, 2020, at Crossroads Community Church in Summerville. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

Stagliano is the founder of Katie’s Krops, a community garden organization with the goal of combating hunger by donating produce. She is also the organizer of Katie’s Krops’ Garden-To-Table Dinners, a program in which Stagliano and other volunteers serve fresh meals to local residents.

The organization started in 2008 with a garden in Stagliano’s backyard. It has since grown to more than 100 community gardens across the U.S. and over 38,000 pounds of donated produce. Its flagship garden is in Summerville at Crossroads Community Church.

The group also reached a milestone in September, serving more than 10,000 meals since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Nobody is making any money off of what we are doing,” said Ryan Herrmann, Katie’s Krops’ head chef for the past three years. “I love it.” 

Stagliano has been recognized by Disney Channel, has had documentaries created about her and wrote a children’s book about the beginnings of Katie’s Krops titled “Katie’s Cabbage.”

Those closest to her say she is incredibly humble and doesn’t talk much about her accomplishments.

Stagliano said she’s just still surprised that all of this started with a single cabbage seedling.

Planting a seed

Thousands of residents have benefited from Katie Krop’s over the years. It all began when Stagliano was in the third grade at Pinewood Preparatory School.

She was asked to bring home and raise a cabbage seedling as part of the Bonnie Plants Third Grade Cabbage Program. She planted it, watered it and even put a cage around it with her grandfather to protect it from deer.

As the cabbage grew, Stagliano eventually got the idea to donate it. It came from her father, John Stagliano, always telling her and her brother how blessed they were to have a meal every night.

Stagliano was advised to take the cabbage to a soup kitchen in North Charleston called Tri-County Family Ministries. The cabbage had grown so big, she couldn’t pick it up herself.

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Peppers grow on Wednesday Sept. 23, 2020, in a community garden started by Katie Stagliano at Crossroads Community Church in Summerville. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

“It was about the size of my 4-year-old brother,” she said.

The cabbage weighed in at 40 pounds at the soup kitchen. It would go on to feed 275 people, and Stagliano would go on to be inspired to expand her garden.

Stacy Stagliano said her daughter was always curious and interested child. She would always ask questions and wasn’t afraid to take the lead on things.

After donating her cabbage, the girl reached out to her school and told officials about her idea to start a community garden. The school ended up giving her a plot of land that was the size of a football field.

“There was really nothing that stopped her,” Stacy Stagliano said. “She just never saw the obstacles.”

At age 12, her daughter was donating produce to a soup kitchen called the Palmetto House through Katie’s Krops. One day they pulled up to the kitchen and saw a small crowd of people standing outside.

There was a handwritten sign on the front door of the kitchen detailing that it was permanently closed. Katie Stagliano took action immediately.

“She said we need to do something,” her mother said.

This led to the creation of Katie’s Krops Garden-To-Table Dinners. Every month at Summerville Baptist Church, a group of volunteers with Katie’s Krops serves a meal to Summerville residents.

The organization is youth-based, meaning young people are often the ones helping to cook the meals and work in the garden. They’ve implemented a seed program where thousands of seeds are shipped across the country to help other children start community gardens.

Camps have also been organized to teach children about community gardening. Herrmann, the head chef, said it’s crazy to think that Stagliano started doing all of this when she was 9.

“It’s inspiring,” he said. “She is something else.”

Filling a need

This year Stagliano was recognized by the National Geographic Society as a young explorer along with 21 other young people from six countries.

The recognition comes with funding and a connection to other community youth leaders across the world. Stagliano is hoping to use the opportunity as a way to expand Katie’s Krops to 500 gardens across all 50 states.

“I never ever imagined in my wildest dreams that any of this would’ve ever happened,” she said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic made its way to South Carolina in March, Stagliano said she knew their dinner program would become even more of a necessity.

So instead of one in-person dinner a month, the group created a weekly to-go dinner program. They also went from seeing 250 meals a month to around 400 in a week.

“People were scared and we knew that we needed to be there,” she said.

Residents can come by Summerville Baptist Church every Thursday around 5 p.m. to pick up a meal. The organization is also always open to volunteers.

Scott Johnson and his daughter, Marley, have been volunteering with Katie’s Krops since the beginning of the summer. He sees it as an opportunity to help fellow citizens and teach his daughter about helping people in need.

“I think it’s very good to see someone at such a young age doing so much, especially in the community,” he said. 

Stagliano said the current flagship garden at Crossroads Community Church is a testament to how much she and others in the program have learned about gardening.

They have a compost program and a library where people can read in the garden. They’re also building an outdoor classroom. Stagliano said she wants the community to really use the garden and for it to be a place where everyone is welcome.

Now a College of Charleston student, she feels like everything up to this point, including the cabbage seedling, was meant to be. Stacy Stagliano said she’s incredibly proud of her daughter. She also gets emotional thinking about how the Summerville community allowed a child to lead.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” she said.

Stagliano doesn’t get overwhelmed thinking about all that she has been able to accomplish at her age. She said she knows it wouldn’t have been possible without support from the community.

It can be easy for a young person to have a dream and get overwhelmed trying to complete, she said. That’s the reason it’s a youth-based organization.

She said wants to help and show kids they can make their dreams a reality.