Caught the gardening bug early

“It wasn’t that much. It was like a few tomato plants, a pepper plant, and a lettuce,” Katie says of her “salad garden.”

Of course it may not seem like much now to this ambitious seventh grader, who turned her passion for planting and picking into a thriving non-profit organization that manages nearly 20 gardens to help to feed the homeless and hungry through local shelters and soup kitchens. The group, Katie’s Krops is featured on the next episode of Everyday Health airing October 1 or 2 on your local ABC station.

And it all got started with a not-so-small cabbage.

Planting the Seed of Change — Literally

When Katie, now 13, was in third grade, her school participated in the Bonnie Plants’ Third Grade Cabbage Program, which provides students with cabbage plants to grow to win a $1,000 scholarship (and bragging rights, natch).

“We planted it and treated it like every other plant in the garden,” Katie recalls. “But it ended up growing to be so much bigger than every other plant.”

In fact, the cabbage (an O.S. Cross variety, known for producing giant heads) ultimately weighed in at a staggering 40 pounds — and won Katie the contest.

But after the initial cheers and congratulations, there was the question of what exactly to do with a 40-pound cabbage plant. After all, serving it to Katie’s own family of four — or even her classroom — would result in a waste of perfectly good and wholesome food.

That’s when Katie had her light bulb moment.

“My dad had always told us not to waste because there are people out there that weren’t fortunate enough to have a hot meal on their table every night,” Katie says. “So I thought, why not donate my cabbage to those people.”

For her mom, Stacy Stagliano, the moment was a proud one. “She grew so attached to that cabbage,” Stacy remembers. “As it grew bigger and bigger it was like her little baby almost.”

To find the perfect home for her cabbage, Stacy searched online for “vegetable donation” and discovered Tri-County Family Ministries in North Charleston, S.C. Katie vividly remembers the day she and her mom went to deliver the massive vegetable. When they pulled up to the kitchen at the shelter, hundreds of people stood in line waiting to get in.

“Katie’s jaw just dropped and she was asking a million questions like, ‘Is this really the only meal they get?'” Stacy says. “When we took the cabbage out, all these people came over asking where it came from and if Katie really grew it.”