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A Young Gardener Feeds the Poor

updated 10/26/2009 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/26/2009 01:00AM

Katie Stagliano, 11

Summerville, S.C.

Last year Katie Stagliano planted a cabbage seedling in her family's backyard. After it grew to an astonishing 40 lbs., Katie donated it to a homeless shelter. Two days later she returned to help serve some of the 275 meals (rounded out by ham and rice) made with her massive crucifer. "I've never felt so good in my life," says Katie, now a fifth grader. "I thought, 'Wow, with one cabbage I helped feed that many people? I could do much more.'"

So she started other gardens—in her subdivision, on donated land outside of town and on a field at her school. She then enlisted volunteers, from gardeners to her classmates, and a plant company donated seedlings. This year Katie and her crew have supplied soup kitchens with over 1,000 lbs. of squash, okra, cabbage and other crops. With the fall harvest, she'll add another 4,000 lbs. "We are amazed, thrilled," says Charlotte Carroll, 57, executive director of Palmetto House, a homeless shelter that gets twice-weekly deliveries from Katie. "It's easy to have a canned food drive, but it's unique a child would grow her own vegetables." Says Elois Mackey, 48, who lives at Palmetto with her two kids: "She shows that children can play a big part in helping people. The vegetables she brought were delicious."

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