SUMMERVILLE — Not many people can say they were internationally recognized for their service, created a program that spans across the United States or are a published author.
Summerville native Katie Stagliano did all three by the time she was 21.
“Age is just a number,” she said. “You will be amazed at what you can accomplish.”
Stagliano is the founder of Katie’s Krops, a community garden organization with the goal of combating hunger through donating produce. She is also the organizer of Katie’s Krops Garden-To-Table Dinners, a program in which Stagliano and other volunteers serve fresh meals to local residents.
The organization started in 2008 with a garden in Stagliano’s backyard. It has since grown to more than 100 community gardens across the U.S. and over 38,000 pounds of donated produce. Its flagship garden is in Summerville at Crossroads Community Church.
The group also reached a milestone in September through serving more than 10,000 meals since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Nobody is making any money off of what we are doing,” said Ryan Herrmann, Katie’s Krops head chef for the past three years. “I love it.”
Stagliano has been recognized by Disney Channel, has had documentaries created about her and wrote a children’s book about the beginnings of Katie’s Krops called “Katie’s Cabbage.”
Those closest to her say she is incredibly humble and doesn’t talk much about her accomplishments.
Stagliano said she’s just still surprised that all of this started with a single cabbage seedling.
Planting a seed
Thousands of residents have benefited from Katie Krop’s over the years. It all began when Stagliano was in the third grade at Pinewood Preparatory School.
She was asked to bring home and raise a cabbage seedling as part of the Bonnie Plants 3rd Grade Cabbage Program. She planted it, watered it and even put a cage around it with her grandfather to protect it from deers.
As the cabbage grew, Stagliano eventually got the idea to donate it. It came from her father, John Stagliano, always telling her and her brother how blessed they were to have a meal every night.
Stagliano was advised to take the cabbage to a soup kitchen in North Charleston called Tri-County Family Ministries. It had grown so big she couldn’t pick up the cabbage herself.
“It was about the size of my 4-year-old brother,” she said.
The cabbage weighed in at 40 pounds at the soup kitchen. It would go on to feed 275 people, and Stagliano would go on to be inspired to expand her garden.
Bestselling author and Harvard-trained psychologist Melanie Joy says the 10 years following the publication of her provocative book “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism” have brought significant changes in how humans think about animals.
What she doesn’t say, but I will, is that Joy’s groundbreaking book played a pivotal role in causing ideas to shift.
Last month, publisher Red Wheel released an anniversary edition. The updated book includes a new forward, a new afterword, and other updates.
Yet the overall message has stayed the same: Carnism is an invisible belief system that protects and enshrines a series of cultural myths allowing us to think eating particular animals is normal, natural and necessary while eating others is abnormal, disgusting and wrong. Like other violent ideologies, carnism is illogical and works best when nobody talks about it.
Joy, who named the belief system carnism long before she penned the book, writes: “The first step in deconstructing eating animals, then, is deconstructing the invisibility of the system.”
Psychologist and author Melanie Joy. An anniversary edition of her best-selling book on carnism was released in August. Photo courtesy of Beyond Carnism
To do so, Joy has traveled to more than 50 countries to speak about the book since its original publication. In 2011, she spoke at the Portland Public Library. In 2013, she was given the Ahimsa Award by the Institute of Jainology, based in India and England. It’s an honor shared by a small group who include Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama.
“Why We Love Dogs” continues to influence current thinking. In December, Vox put “Why We Love Dogs” at the top of its list of “19 books from the 2010s we can’t stop thinking about.” In January, Joy talked with The Washington Post about “Why that vegan meal at the Golden Globes set off so many critics.” And this summer one of three winning essays (out of 1,242 submissions) in The New York Times’ annual Student Editorial Contest was headlined “Bringing Ethics to Your Plate” and cited the book in its second paragraph.
I was able to connect with Joy at her home in Berlin, Germany, via Zoom and she agreed that “since 2010, when the first edition was published, the awareness of what an atrocity animal agriculture is has really grown.”
She points to a number of factors raising people’s consciousness, including the increased availability of vegan food and the impossible-to-ignore body of scientific research that has accumulated during the decade linking an animal-based diet with climate change and a plant-based diet with disease prevention and reversal. Joy said this year the COVID-19 pandemic has further opened eyes to the consequences of animal confinement systems and their role in spreading zoonotic disease.
“In the past few months, more people have become aware that animal agriculture and wet markets are leading drivers of pandemics,’ Joy said. “This combination of more awareness and easier access to more vegan options has made more people increasingly uncomfortable,