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Delicious BBQ heading to needy families after American Royal

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- The American Royal World Series of BBQ may be over, but the meals are about to start for thousands of hungry people in the metro.

But that almost wasn't the case, until one barbecuer called FOX 4's Problem Solvers.

At the food donation tent at the American Royal, in between the chicken and the ribs, the brisket and the pork, you'll now find pens.

For almost 10 years, Gary Benham and hundreds of others donated the meat they made for the World Series competition - to Kookers Kare, which then donated it to Harvesters, and other local food banks.

Until last year.

"Last year," said Benham, "we had a little problem with the health department -- not knowing the process that we follow, to get the food safely to the people that needed it."

He explained, "Harvester's wasn't allowed to distribute that food. The food that was distributed to the pantry was tossed in a dumpster and bleached, and the rest of the food that had not been distributed had to be detroyed as well. It was a big disappointment to the people who work really hard."

Benham called Fox4 Problem Solvers and explained the situation. He said he and other BBQers were disappointed that a near 10 year tradition was about to end.

Now, in 2017, Benham said he worked with food inspectors at the Kansas Department of Agriculture and the Missouri Department of Health.

"We were very diligent in documenting what we did today," said the President of Kookers Kare. "It took us - it took us a little bit longer than what we've done in the past, because we did have to document all the stuff."

That documentation involved pens and adhesive labels - and the cloud.

"We had another company come in," said Benham, "that helped us with the digitally documenting some of the process. We've got temperature probes going that are going up to the cloud, and we've created a document up there with graphs and charts and everything, so we can physically document how we took care of samples of this food."

And now, some of the hungriest people in the metro will have some of the tastiest BBQ this week.

"It's going to go feed the hungry, the homeless, and they're obviously very grateful," said Harvesters volunteer Dennis Velasquez. "It's not often that they get world class BBQ. Just once a year - during this time. And they're very grateful."

Kookers Kare is the non-profit organization that handles all these donations. It estimates it will have anywhere between 3,000 - 4,000 pounds of meat at Harvesters and local food pantries; it expects it will all be eaten within a week.

Operation BBQ Relief (OBR) was also at the American Royal World Series this weekend. It donated food to the Kookers Kare organization on Sunday as well.

Operation BBQ Relief is already cooking food down in Houston for those affected by Hurricane Harvey. But it doesn't have refrigeration capabilities, so organizers say they donated all the cold food donations they received to Kookers Kare.

That means people at metro food banks and shelters will have some tasty sides to go with their award winning BBQ.