CHARLESTON, SC (WCBD) - 1 in 8 people in the United States struggles to put food on their plates. That's according to the latest 2017 statistics released by the non-profit FeedingAmerica.org.
But, a South Carolina woman has been on a mission to lower that number, one garden at a time, since she was in elementary school.
Katie Stagliano proves that age is just a number and it's never too early to achieve your dream.
"I started all of this when I was 9 years old." Katie's dream? To reduce food insecurity in the United States, and it's a real and big problem.
40 million people live in a household that's food insecure, including more than 12 million children.
So back in 2008, as a 3rd grader, Katie got to work in the garden.
Katie says "I brought my seedling home. I planted it in my back yard and it just kept growing and growing."
And before she knew it, that seed turned into a cabbage checking in at a whopping 40 pounds.
"I was just blown away," says Stagliano, "I didn't even know cabbages could even grow to be that big and I was just like this is far too much food for my family and I to eat."
It was at that moment that Katie knew exactly what she wanted to do with the cabbage. "I decided I wanted to donate my cabbage to a soup kitchen and help families who didn't have enough to eat." And that 40-pound cabbage fed 275 people. "That's when I got the idea that would change my life forever."
Katie's dream, planted and from that, her non-profit Katie's Krops was grown.
"Imagine how many people an entire garden could feed and that was the start of Katie's Krops. It all kind of snowballed from there."
Snowballed into her non-profit that now has 100 gardens growing in 31 states across the country, all run by youth between the 9 and 16, in their backyards, at schools, community centers, churches, and libraries.
In the Lowcountry of South Carolina, students at Oak Christian school are getting their hands dirty while giving back.
Cheron Bryant, the teacher who runs the garden there tells us "We've been a Katie's Krops grower for about four years now" and continues, saying "In 2018 alone we grew over 500 pounds of fresh produce that we donated."
"The kids love it, they love it," Cheron says. "I can be walking in the hallway and they will be like when do we get to go to the garden again?"
And that garden has been transformed into an outdoor classroom.
"They find worms, they find lizards and frogs, and they get to see how their gardens are growing." Cheron says the kids can't get enough and are learning in the process. "I've had parents say how did you get my child to eat salad? How did you get them to eat lettuce? It's because they planted it and harvested it, they got to touch and feel it."
This is the amazing impact Katie's Krops is having around the country. Katie tells us "It's so important for kids to learn about gardening at an early age or how to be able to feed themselves, feed their neighbors."
And Katie's work and good deeds over the last 11 years have not gone unnoticed. She's received national recognition, including from US food company General Mills.
In 2018, Katie's Krops donated more than 40,000lbs of fresh produce to people in need.
And there are so many ways you can help her organization end hunger. You can start a garden or buy something off Katie's Krop's wish list, just head to KatiesKrops.com.
Oh, and if you're curious. The 40-pound cabbage she grew in 2008 is still her biggest vegetable to date, and cabbages are still her favorite thing to grow.
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