9 years of Katie's Krops: 81 gardens, 31 states, tons of food

A Summerville teenager who has done more in eight years than most will do in a lifetime by making sure people who have the least are well fed is celebrating another milestone.

It was in a corner of her family's backyard garden where Katie Stagliano planted her first crop.

"This is where the infamous cabbage was grown, it was grown right here," Stagliano said earlier this week as she neared the fifth anniversary of her nonprofit Katie's Krops. "It was like this big, it was real tiny. And somehow it got to be this big."

Stagliano was just nine years old at the time, and decided she wanted to give it to a soup kitchen. What happened next kicked off a movement that's spread across the country.

"It really changed my life, that if one cabbage can serve 275 people, imagine what an entire garden could feed," she said.

Stagliano's gardens have grown significantly since those days in her backyard in Summerville.

"We are at 81 gardens in 31 states across the United States," she said. "All the gardens are run by kids. All the proceeds are donated to those in need."

She even has a grant process to help kids in other communities around the country to start their own gardens.

"There is a grantee Maddie in North Carolina, she donates 2,000 pounds of food from her backyard. She has two gardens in her backyard and she grows 2,000 pounds of food and she's only 11 years old, and donates all of that to people in need in her community," Stagliano said. "And sometimes when I bring fresh vegetables to people in need, I don't realize people like Maddie who are supporting me and who is donating fresh vegetables to people in need in their community."

Stagliano has grown too, now a high school student at Pinewood Prep getting ready to head to college, but her message and her commitment to provide has remained the same.

Murray United Methodist Church is one of several stops along her way. The Pinewood Prep junior is quick to point out that Katie's Krops is not a one-person growing operation.

"Sometimes when it's 100 degree heat and we are planting in the garden or we are taking care of the garden and they are supporting me, it means the world to me because I know at that moment they are not like, 'Yes I want to be sweating to death in this weather,' but they do it anyways," she said.

Her circle of friends grows like her gardens, from Hollywood star Matt Damon to former President Bill Clinton.

"He was actually the president when I was born," Stagliano said, talking about the recognition she got from the Clinton Global Initiative in 2012. "He, like, is one of those persons who knows a lot about everything so you can talk to him about anything. He'll have a lot to say and it's really cool to talk to him."

Stagliano will say her thumb is greener now than when she started; years of practice have made her into a skilled gardener. And her family's garden has also changed. Now it's an ever-expanding vegetable bin. "Back there we have peppers, a lot of different peppers. I have a blueberry bush back there and there and there, beans growing over here," she said, walking through the garden.

Stepping stones now border the original cabbage patch as Stagliano and her crops continues to nurture the souls and stomachs of those in need.

Thursday night, Stagliano is celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Katie's Krops dinner at a Summerville church.

For her efforts, Stagliano is the first winner of the ABC News 4 Jefferson Award.

ABC News 4 has committed to profile people in the Lowcountry who go above and beyond by giving their time and talents to help the people around them. It's all part of our partnership with the Jefferson Awards, a national organization dedicated to recognizing and celebrating those who serve and lead.

To nominate someone in your community, click here.

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