Often you hear me marvel at how accomplished our Talking GOOD interviewees are, particularly in light of their young ages. Well, this week the bar has been set at an astronomically high level — “GINORMOUSLY high” as my son would say. I’m not even sure where to begin on this one. How about this … I’ll tell you the beginning of Katie Stagliano’s story, and I’ll tell you where she is today, 5 years later, at the age of 14! I’ll leave it to you to figure out what happened in between.
BEGINNING OF THE STORY: Based in Summerville, South Carolina, Katie is the founder of Katie’s Krops, a not-for-profit organization with the mission to start and maintain vegetable gardens of all sizes and donate the harvest to help feed people in need, as well as to assist and inspire others to do the same. The idea for Katie’s Krops began when Katie was in the 3rd grade. In 2008 Katie brought home a tiny cabbage seedling from school, which she tended and cared for until it grew to an amazing 40 pounds. Knowing her cabbage was special, she donated it to Tri County Family Ministries, a local soup kitchen where she served her cabbage to 275 guests of the soup kitchen. Katie decided that day to start a vegetable garden and donate the harvest to those in need.
TODAY: Fast forward five years. Katie is 14 years old. She has created a sustainable healthy solution to hunger from the ground up. She has donated thousands and thousands of pounds of healthy food to people in need, and there are more than 50 Katie’s Krops gardens growing in 22 states across the country. Last September, Katie became the youngest recipient ever of the Clinton Global Citizen Award for Leadership in Civil Society. Check out the video of her acceptance speech (she’s introduced by Matt Damon!). The Award recognizes individuals from various sectors who demonstrate visionary leadership in addressing global challenges. According to President Clinton: “The work being done by this year’s honorees is nothing short of extraordinary. Tonight I’m proud to honor … a social entrepreneur on pace to take my job before she turns 16.”
Katie has already received a ton of recognition, awards, and media coverage for her work. It’s staggering really. You can see much of it on her website, which I really encourage you to visit after reading her interview below. The only other item I want to call attention to is the upcoming documentary film called “Give Me Your Hungry,” which showcases how three crusaders, one being Katie, are taking the struggle to address worldwide hunger into their own hands in “unexpected, innovative and even controversial or dangerous ways.”
Katie, whether you were 8 years old or 80, I am in awe of what you’ve been able to accomplish. As a father, I am interested in conducting a separate interview with your parents to learn how they’ve been helpful to you on this journey. They’re clearly doing something right! As always, thanks for answering our questions.
The 10 questions
IN JUST ONE SENTENCE, WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE?
I believe that my purpose in life is to work towards ending hunger and inspire others to follow their heart, regardless of their age.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH BEFORE YOU “EXPIRE?”
I would like to know I made a dent in the issue of hunger and inspired other people to follow their hearts and their dreams. I would love to have Katie’s Krops continue even after I have “expired”. If my dream, the dream of a nine year old girl, could continue through the work of others even after I’m gone that would be amazing.
IF YOU COULD MEET WITH ANYONE (ALIVE), WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU ASK THEM?
I would LOVE to meet Missy Franklin. I would ask her how she balances her life between being a world class athlete and school and a social life. She is an amazing athlete who has won multiple Olympic medals but is still in high school, it would be amazing to know how she finds that perfect life balance.
WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK BE?
‘Katie’s Cabbage’ would be my book’s title. It would be the story of how a tiny cabbage seedling changed the life of a little girl. Best part is it will be a book very soon (I hope.) It is written and in the hands of a publisher.
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU, IN A MOVIE ABOUT YOUR LIFE?
Ashley Greene would play me. I love her in Twilight as Alice, so I think it would be cool if she played me in a movie about my life.
WHAT IS A BELIEF THAT IS CORE TO YOUR BEING?
I believe that everything happens for a reason. Although we may not always know the reason at the time, there is a higher purpose. When I received my cabbage I had no idea the true reason. The true reason I was given my cabbage seedling so I could learn how I, at only 9 years old, could help end hunger one vegetable garden at a time.
WHO ARE YOUR HEROES?
Anybody who follows their dreams and follows their heart through good times and bad is my hero. It is easy to have a dream, a hero follows that dream at all costs.
IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
I would be a regular middle school student. Without Katie’s Krops, I would not have the global knowledge that I have now.
TELL US SOMETHING SURPRISING ABOUT YOURSELF.
I invented a toothbrush that teaches water conservation when I was nine or ten years old after a severe drought swept through South Carolina.
WHAT QUESTION(s) DO YOU WISH I HAD ASKED?
QUESTION: What’s keeps you going when you’re down? ANSWER: When I’m down, I think about all the people that I’m helping. I think about the people who don’t get meals, the people who wait in lines for for hours just to get food. I think about the struggles people have to go through just to have what so many of us take for granted. Knowing that I have the ability to help them keeps me going.