The American Royal’s World Series of Barbecue is a longstanding tradition for community members of Kansas City, Missouri. Since 1899, the event has attracted the most talented barbecue chefs from all corners of the state, who gather annually to show off their skills. With so many BBQ experts in one place, there tends to be a fair amount of leftover food once the festivities come to a close.
Hating to waste such a vast amount of quality barbecue, some of the event’s BBQ gurus got together and founded the charitable group, Kookers Kare. Partnering with the Harvesters Community Food Network, Kookers Kare has made a tradition of donating the leftover food to local homeless shelters at the end of each annual event.
This year, the two groups collected over 3,000 pounds of meat and 1,200 pounds of sides, all bound for a local nonprofit organization called Hope City, where it was to be served to over 3,000 homeless citizens in need. However, the Kansas City Health Department put the kibosh on Kookers Kare’s attempts to feed the homeless before anyone was even able to enjoy the food.
Claiming they had no foreknowledge of this charitable tradition, the health department forbid the food from being served to the needy. Suspiciously, the inspectors just happened to be doing a random inspection of Hope City the day the BBQ arrived.
“All of that food was uninspected, so that makes it from an unapproved source, it cannot be served to the public,” Kansas City Health Department Operations Manager Joe Williamson said in response to the department’s decision to stop the food from being consumed.
The health department did not stop at simply forbidding the food from being served, they demanded that it be destroyed immediately. Those who had worked diligently to collect the food were forced to douse over 3,000 pounds of award-winning barbecue food with bleach, in order to ensure its destruction and appease the local health department. Meanwhile, 3,000 homeless individuals went without a meal that day.
After receiving negative feedback when this story surfaced in the news, the health department doubled down on its decision by saying, “3,000 people a year die of foodborne illness, so this is nothing to play with, it’s very serious.”
Harvesters Community Food Network Director of Communications, Sarah Biles lamented the health department’s decision and commented, “We’ve had a great partnership and we’ve been able to collect that food over the years. However, in recent year’s food safety regulations have gotten tighter and more strict and continue to change.”
For charitable individuals, giving back to their communities should not be an act that is tightly regulated by government entities. Instead, these volunteers should be met with open arms and positivity from state entities, rather than being demonized unless they have first sought the government’s seal of approval.
As disappointed as these volunteers may be, we can only imagine the disappointment among the 3,000 people who were denied a hot meal.