COLUMBUS, Ohio — According to Feeding America, one out of seven children in Ohio faces hunger every day, and with cuts in snap benefits, food insecurity is only growing, but one Columbus teen is trying to help fight back.

What You Need To Know

  • Te’Lario Watkins has been named the 2023 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes

  • Watkins won the award for his service work, including the community gardens he grows

  • He first found his passion for gardening when he was 7-years-old

  • Today Watkins uses gardening to grow produce for families in need

Te’Lario Watkins is growing community gardens in the community, and he’s only 15 years old.

"Some people, they can't afford good food,” he said. "So, they have to resort to getting fast food as their main food source, and I want to create community gardens, so that I can help people have their own fresh produce, so they can eat." 

So far, Te’Lario Watkins has grown 300 pounds of produce, which he has donated to food banks. The gardens he’s growing are part of what he calls the 'Garden Club Project'—an idea that started small. 

"When I first started,” he said, “I was growing mushrooms in my basement and selling them at farmers' markets. I guess it was just like something my seven-year-old brain wanted to do and found interesting."

But later, Te’Lario felt the call to help.

"In a farmer's market, I had seen that people were using different types of currency,” he said. “I had asked my father, ‘why are people using wooden coins to pay for their food?' and he had told me, 'Well, some people don't have enough money.'  And that had resonated with me somehow."

From there, Te’Lario Watkins has been donating the produce he grows to families in need through food banks. 

But he’s also helped his school create a community garden, shared his ideas to other youth groups, and he's even written a children’s book on being kind.

Te’Lario Watkins’ service work has won him the 2023 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes

His mother, LaVanya Watkins, has been with him every step of the way.     

"He stuck with it,” said LaVanya Watkins. “I think, you know, his story inspires me and inspires the kids, and I think it just makes them work a little bit harder. I'm just proud of the impact he's making. 

Meanwhile, Te’Lario Watkins shares an inspiring message to other kids, like himself.

"I hope to inspire them by them being able to see a kid like them growing, doing all these amazing things and just how simple it is to do it as well," he said.

He plans to start growing produce at his second garden soon.