A Conversation with Katie Stagliano of Katie’s Krop, The Winner Of ‘General Mills’ Feeding Better Futures Scholars’
“I have learned that with a garden as your inspiration, your menu is limitless. I have learned the joy that a hot meal can bring to an individual facing hunger. I have learned that our meal nurtures not only the body but also the soul as well. Sharing a dinner table, sharing a meal, has brought me, and our youth volunteers, closer to those we help. We know their struggles and celebrate their triumphs at our dinners as well. We have created a unique bond with our guests. Most importantly, I have learned that no matter how young you are, you can make a difference in this world. You can eat healthy on a tight budget. Our dinners are not extravagant. They do not cost a great deal of money, but they are healthy, hot and well balanced and always include lots of fresh vegetables, protein, and a starch. I dare to say that our meals rival many restaurants. I am so proud of what we have accomplished in eight years. The thousands of people we have helped to feed (yes thousands), the memories we have made, and the delicious meals we have created. Of course, this all would not be possible without the support of my friends, my family, and the supporters of Katie’s Krops.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Katie Stagliano, founder of Katie’s Krops At just 19-years-old Katie has dedicated ten years of her life to growing a healthy end to hunger and has empowered thousands of kids to get involved in youth service. She is a leader in the movement to end hunger is providing the healthiest, freshest foods.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
In 2018, when I was just ten-years-old, I received a cabbage seedling from the Bonnie Plants Third Grade Cabbage Program. I planted my seedling in my backyard. Every day I would come out with the watering can and water it. I would fertilize the cabbage and weed around it. My family and I watched it grow and grow and grow in size. One day our neighbors told us that deer had been spotted in the neighborhood, so my grandfather and I took action. We decided to build a cage for my cabbage. My grandfather arrived with supplies in hand, and we went to work. At the end of the day, it was done. We had four wooden posts, one in every corner with chicken wire spread from one corner to another. We had built a cabbage cage. It worked. No deer ate my cabbage. When my cabbage was fully grown it weighed in at an amazing 40 pounds!
I knew my cabbage was special and it needed to find a special home. My mom contacted Fields to Families a local organization that helps farmers get crops to organizations that feed the hungry to see where I could donate my cabbage. They recommended we share my cabbage with Tricounty Family Ministries (https://www.facebook.com/TricountyFamilyMinistries/).
In May of 2008, my family and I brought my cabbage to Tri-County Family Ministries. When I walked in, I saw a huge line of people waiting for what might be the only meal they would have that day. The guests greeted me and asked if I grew the giant cabbage. When it was time to serve my cabbage to the guests, they thanked me for helping to feed them. My one cabbage helped to feed 275 people. After seeing how many people my one cabbage helped to feed, I thought about how many people can a garden feed? And that was the inspiration for me to start Katie’s Krops.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Eight years ago, my mom drove me to our local soup kitchen, for what was to be a routine vegetable donation. This attempted donation would be anything but routine. This trip to the soup kitchen would forever change the direction of Katie’s Krops and unite a core group of kids to take our battle to end hunger to the next level.
I had made regular donations to the only soup kitchen in my town for years. I was only twelve-years-old at the time, and the soup kitchen and homeless shelter was my favorite donation spot. It was close to my home, the residents had become my friends, and the staff was amazing. As we pulled into the driveway, baskets of freshly harvested vegetable in the back of our truck, I knew something was different. Something had changed. As I approached the door, I knew immediately what it was. A sign was taped to the door, “Closed.” I soon learned that funding had been shut off to the shelter/soup kitchen. My heart sank. The people who resided there were my friends, my supporters. Where would they go for meals? Would they go hungry?
On that day, I knew I needed to fill the void in my community. I knew, at only twelve-years-old, that I needed to provide meals for families in need in my hometown. On that day, the Katie’s Krops Dinner was born.
What was my solution? Using the harvest from our gardens, we could create healthy, hot meals for anyone in need in my hometown, Summerville, South Carolina. At Katie’s Krops, we had always donated our harvest to food pantries, soup kitchens and directly to families in need, but at that point in time, we had never cooked with our harvest. I approached the head of Food Services at my school, Mr. McNeill, and my 6th Grade Science teacher, Cory Fuller. Together we created a plan. We would arrange a meal based on the harvest from our Katie’s Krops Gardens. What we could not grow we would need to purchase. Our garden volunteers, all kids just like me, would help us create the dinner. It would be our very own, kid run, garden to table, soup kitchen. The very first Katie’s Krops Dinner was born.
Eight years have passed since that day. Even though we are still kids, we have fed thousands of people healthy, free, hot meals. We currently serve anywhere between 200 to 250 meals per dinner.
What have I learned over the eight years that we have hosted our dinners? I have learned that with a garden as your inspiration, your menu is limitless. I have learned the joy that a hot meal can bring to an individual facing hunger. I have learned that our meal nurtures not only the body but also the soul as well. Sharing a dinner table, sharing a meal, has brought me, and our youth volunteers, closer to those we help. We know their struggles and celebrate their triumphs at our dinners as well. We have created a unique bond with our guests. Most importantly, I have learned that no matter how young you are, you can make a difference in this world.
You can eat healthy on a tight budget. Our dinners are not extravagant. They do not cost a great deal of money, but they are healthy, hot and well balanced and always include lots of fresh vegetables, protein, and a starch. I dare to say that our meals rival many restaurants.
I am so proud of what we have accomplished in eight years. The thousands of people we have helped to feed (yes thousands), the memories we have made, and the delicious meals we have created. Of course, this all would not be possible without the support of my friends, my family, and the supporters of Katie’s Krops.
What do you think makes your organization stand out? Can you share a story?
Katie’s Krops is unique as that it is a youth based organization that empowers kids as young as kindergarten to get involved in the fight against hunger. We are youth founded, youth run and youth empowered. We are getting kids involved in growing a better tomorrow. Katie’s Krops engages kids to dig and the dirt and get to the root of the problem of hunger.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
Well I think the most exciting moment right now is that General Mills has picked me as the grand prize winner of the Feeding Better Futures Scholars Program! I’m so honored to have been chosen and to have the support of such a big, amazing company. With their help, I am excited to take a big step towards my dream of having at least one Katie’s Krops Garden in all 50 states!
What advice would you give to other founders to help their volunteers to thrive?
Lead by example. “Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and actions.”
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My parents! From the moment I grew my 40-pound cabbage my parents have been by my side, encouraging me, supporting me and allow me even at a very young age to do amazing things. Never did my parents say, you are too young. Never did my parents say, school comes first. Never did my parents say, I don’t have time to help you. My parents encouraged me supported me, and most importantly, they listened to me. My words, my dreams, my visions were important to them. As Katie’s Krops grew so did the need for me to travel. My amazing father took a job working from home so he could be there for my brother so my mom and I could travel to grow Katie’s Krops.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have used my success to empower kids to take action in the fight against hunger, to provide fresh, healthy food to families in need, to provide healthy meals to those struggling with food insecurity.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became founder” and why.
· You will never have enough time to do everything you want to do. You will have big dreams, large goals. Stay focused on your goals because your time is precious.
· Everyone will have an opinion (especially on the internet). Ignore the haters, stay focused, stay true to who you are.
· Accept help. It does not make you weak, it makes you smart.
· Thank you can be the most powerful words in the world.
· Never let anyone tell you that you are too young (or too old). Age is just a number, never an obstacle.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“Don’t tell people your dreams. Show them.”
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
JJ Watt! I admire his passion for helping, his determination. Watt’s philanthropy seems to be without bounds. He has found the balance to follow his dreams and care for his community. He is my idol. I admire people who say, if not me then who.
Originally published at medium.com