After nearly two years of building up a food donation and distribution program, Strand of Three is seeing results.
The Leawood-based Christian 501(c)(3) charitable organization distributes bags of food for the homeless and food insecure residents through a variety of institutions throughout the metro area. Since it started in 2011, Strand of Three has given out more than 1,100 bags of food.
One organization that distributes the food is the Olathe School District, as part of its Adopt a School program linking schools with local businesses, faith-based organizations and civic groups to meet the needs of its schools and their students.
Olathe North High School gives out bags from Strand of Three that contain a mixture of items intended to feed a family of four for three days. A typical bag has about $20 of groceries, including canned soup, cereal, tuna, Tuna Helper, macaroni and cheese, cookies, spaghetti, tomato sauce, canned vegetables and canned fruit.
At a back-to-school outreach event for homeless students in August, founder Kathleen Klag and other volunteers from Strand of Three handed out about 60 bags. The district also provided those students with haircuts and backpacks.
“We don’t often have an opportunity to actually have the direct contact in passing the bag to somebody,” said Klag, who runs Strand of Three out of her Leawood home. “The relief on some of these moms’ faces when they saw what was in the bags was amazing.”
The whole operation started in 2010, when Klag saw a homeless man asking for food on the street in Johnson County on Christmas Eve.
She didn’t stop that day, but she kept thinking about him, and the next time she was heading to that area, she brought him a bag of easy-to-eat groceries.
“(The idea) kind of percolated in me for several months until I decided I really had to do something,” Klag said.
That something was to form Strand of Three, named for Ecclesiastes 4:12: “a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
The first project was to gather bags of food for the homeless, the way she had done for that first person. Her goal was to put enough food in each for two people to share over two or three days.
However, she didn’t have the contacts to know who really needed the food, so she decided to partner with other places that had a better handle on the situation.
“We’re not a food pantry,” Klag said. “… People cannot come to us and get food.”
In addition to the Olathe School District, organizations who partner with Strand of Three include Community LINC, Freedom Covenant Church, Gordon Parks Elementary School, Johnson County Interfaith Hospitality Network and Hillcrest Covenant Church.
“These organizations do something I could never do — they know these people, know when they’re in need of food. We give these bags to these organizations for free,” Klag said.
This month, the organization also distributed special Christmas bags with the makings of a holiday meal inside. They were able to buy the supplies at cost from Cosentino’s Price Chopper at 103rd Street and State Line Road. Klag said other grocery stores have also allowed them to buy items at cost.
The group also contributes to a basic food pantry at Indian Creek Elementary School in Olathe that supplements the BackSnack program, a Harvesters program that gives food to students in need each weekend. Strand of Three contributes additional bags for more extended school breaks.
“We know that a healthy brain that has good food can concentrate on academics better,” said Alison Banikowski, deputy superintendent of the Olathe School District. “Sometimes those physical needs for food, clothing and shelter get in the way of a student’s academics … (Strand of Three is) a wonderful partner, and they are doing such important work in our community.”
About 26 percent of the Olathe district’s students are in poverty, Banikowski said.
Klag encourages people to donate money so they can buy more food for these bags. Because each bag contains a specific set of items, organizations that want to do food drives for them must use Strand of Three’s list.