June 28, 2013 | Health and Well-Being, Innovation

The Girl Who Wants to Feed the World

Katie Stagliano's crops are filling food banks and pantries

The Girl Who Wants to Feed the World

Sometimes, to feed the world, you have to start small—or young. Katie Stagliano, 14, is your average teenager: she goes to school, hangs out with friends, and has hobbies like gardening. And oh, yeah, that green thumb? It's helped her build a nonprofit that provides communities in need with fresh produce. She started Katie's Krops at age 9—and by age 13 became the youngest-ever winner of the Clinton Global Citizen Award for "leadership in civil society." Today, Katie's Krops has spread to 72 gardens in 22 states and has an annual grant program so pre- to mid-teens can start their own chapters. Five years and thousands of pounds after launching her venture, Katie knows better than anyone how planting a single seed can grow into something entirely different. Below, her words of wisdom.

1. "Start small, and let things grow."
When Katie was in third grade, she planted a cabbage seed. That cabbage ended up growing to over 40 pounds—and became the first vegetable Katie ever donated to a soup kitchen. That's when Katie discovered her passion for charity work, and slowly branched out to grow more food. She never forced anything; you could say her expansion was organic.

2. Embrace unexpected encounters
Early in the history of Katie's Krops, Katie held a fresh-vegetable drive. A local farmer showed up with some food—and offered Katie the use of part of his acreage. Katie's Krops didn't gain just a location that day, it gained a friend. "I didn't know Mr. Bob then, but now he's part of our family," Katie says. "He's been amazing."

3. Follow your bliss
You've heard it before, but it has even more impact coming from a 14-year-old who's lived it:  "Find a cause that you believe in," Katie says. "That's how you can really make a difference."

4. Age is no obstacle
"It doesn't matter if you're 9 or 99. Age is just a number," says Katie.

5. Stay grounded
When asked if she's inspired by role models, Katie has a typically down-to-earth answer: "What inspires the work I'm doing is the people I'm helping." The soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters she supplies would probably return the compliment.