Planting the Seed of Change: How One Teen Will Feed Cancer Patients in Need

Planting the Seed of Change: How One Teen Will Feed Cancer Patients in Need

Thirteen-year-old entrepreneur Katie Stagliano turned a 40-pound cabbage into a community garden that feeds hundreds of families each year. Now after learning that ‘Everyday Health’ host Ethan Zohn’s cancer had returned, Stagliano wants to do something in honor of him and cancer patients in her area.



During the first season of Everyday Health , hosts Ethan Zohn and Jenna Morasca visited Katie Stagliano, founder of Katie’s Krops in Summerville, S.C. The 13-year-old began a community garden after her 40-pound cabbage won top honors in her elementary school class’s contest. After three years, Stagliano now has 11 satellite gardens, which also donate food to local shelters and families in need. (Catch the Everyday Health episode featuring Katie’s Krops on Dec. 17 or 18 on your local ABC station.)

After hearing that Zohn’s cancer had returned, Stagliano became inspired to do even more. Here, she checks in to tell us what else she’s got growing.

The holidays are a time when a lot of people are donating to soup kitchens and giving toys to those in need. I think that it is amazing how much support these people get during the holiday season: Food baskets on Thanksgiving, coat and jacket drives for the cold winter months, and toys for Christmas. This means a lot to families, especially those with young kids, who have trouble providing for themselves.

But what a lot of people do not realize is that hunger does not end after the holidays. People will still wake up hungry January 1st.

Appearing on Everyday Health was a huge honor. Since the show first aired in September, we have started cooking and serving dinners at Summerville Baptist, a local church with a huge dining hall. Word has spread across the community, and we have had huge crowds. Our first dinner alone had 60 people, and at our last dinner, 95 meals were served!

I believe that because of the challenging status of our economy, more people are falling on hard times. We get calls every day from families asking for fresh vegetables and food or for the date of the next Katie’s Krops dinner. I am thrilled that Summerville Baptist Church believes in our mission and has agreed to fill the void of no longer having a soup kitchen in my community by allowing us to continue to prepare healthy, fresh, and hot meals to anyone in need in 2012.

Everything Happens for a Reason

I have found that sometimes life is like a puzzle. All you need are the few missing pieces for it all to make sense. And this year I found those missing pieces in the people I met.

I had the great privilege to work with Ethan Zohn on Everyday Health. He is a cancer survivor and is so full of life, so much fun, and so determined to live life to the fullest.

I also met Mark Hertlizch, a survivor who fought cancer all the way to the football field. Mark is a player for the New York Giants, #58. While he was at Boston College he was diagnosed with bone cancer. Mark had been an amazing football player at the college and he was determined to beat cancer and play again. Mark did just that and now he plays for the Giants.

Harper Drolet was an 11-year-old girl who lived in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. She battled cancer twice, but, unfortunately, during her second fight Harper passed away. Her memory lives on and her spirit lives on through ‘Hugs for Harper,’ which raises money to help fund pediatric oncology research.

And finally, our family friend and neighbor, Miss Susan, is a breast cancer advocate. She approached us before Thanksgiving, asking if we had any food she could pass along to breast cancer patients, some of who are even homeless.

Why did I meet these people? What did I learn?

Just as I knew there was a reason I grew my 40-pound cabbage, I know there is a reason that these people came into my life. In 2012, I will continue to fight hunger one garden at a time, and I will continue to put the pieces of the puzzle together and see where they will lead me.

Planting the Seeds for a New Garden

I learned what I think most of us already know — that cancer is a horrible disease. Cancer takes a toll financially on patients and their families. Often caregivers are forced to give up their jobs to care for their loved ones. The financial burdens of the disease can be overwhelming and, as a result, families battling cancer sometimes struggle to put food on their tables. When you are fighting any disease or caring for someone in the fight of their life, proper nutrition is of the utmost importance.

That is when I put the pieces of the puzzle together: Katie’s Krops would start a vegetable garden to provide cancer patients and their families with healthy, fresh produce.

Katie’s Krops mission is to grow vegetable gardens to feed people in need, and I can see no greater need than growing produce to provide nutritious fruits and vegetables to cancer patients and their families. In 2012, I will start a Katie’s Krops garden dedicated to feeding people who are fighting cancer. The harvest will provide patients with healthy produce, and it will be a tribute to honor those who are battling this terrible disease and those who have passed because of cancer. The pieces of the puzzle are coming together.

If you would like to help with the gardens dedicated to cancer patients, learn more about Katie’s Krops and our mission to fight hunger one vegetable garden at a time, or find out how kids ages 9 to 16 can apply for a grant to start a Katie’s Krops garden in their community, please go to

Last Updated: 12/14/2011