Giving back with DI-inspired dishes by Chef Barbi

Photo of DI volunteer, Barbi Loftis, and a DI participant. Text says, "DI-inspired dishes with Chef Barbi"

Howdy, friends.

I am Barbi Loftis and I am a proud Destination Imagination (DI) volunteer and Texan. My husband, Andy, and I have been involved with the DI community for decades. It all started when we were looking for an experience that would allow our kids to expand their minds and explore their innate creativity. After we attended our first DI event and saw all the excited kids and the safe environment that celebrated them, their teamwork and problem-solving in such a fun way, we were hooked.

Over the years, we saw all three of our kids grow up with DI as a critical part of their lives. It helped them all to find their unique voices. Our kids are all grown up now and work in different fields – from a tenured professor in Europe to a leader in developing cutting-edge technology to a builder in the construction industry. Destination Imagination helped each of my children discover themselves in a way that no other experience did during their youth.

With our kids grown, my husband Andy and I decided to stay involved with DI to give back to the organization that has given so much to our family. Over the years, we have worked as volunteers at both the local and international levels, with Andy even serving on the DI Board of Trustees for many years. In addition to volunteering, DI has given us our best friends. From California to Massachusetts and in between, we know that we will have a friendly face to greet us wherever we go.

I never knew how important these friendships would be until I received the news in 2003 that I had been diagnosed with stage three cancer. During this time, I was very sick, but through hard work and intense treatment, I was able to beat cancer. As part of this journey, I had to completely reimagine and rethink how to eat. My Doctor said, “Barbi, if you can peel it, then you can eat it.” Basically, he meant that I needed to eat fresh grown and minimally processed foods for the rest of my life. At first, I was clueless about where to start but I just thought of it as another Instant Challenge to solve. Over time, I completely changed my relationship with food and even began to incorporate exercise into my daily routine. Because of these changes, I have been 19 years cancer-free and I feel great! Through it all, my DI family was there by my side to support me and I was so grateful to have so many to help me through such a difficult experience.

Because of my experience with cancer and my changed relationship with food, I became passionate about how food can transform health. This newfound passion pushed me to enroll in culinary school and in 2014, I graduated with top honors. With my new degree and knowledge, I started developing recipes to help people to eat healthily and nutritiously while battling cancer. I hope to compile these recipes into a cookbook with all proceeds going to the foundation I started called Fighting Cancer with Nutrition (FCN).

The last couple of years have been challenging for so many because of the pandemic and as we start a new DI season, I wanted to combine my passions and give back to DI in a new way. That is why I have created a series of homemade cooking videos that you and your DI teams can use to create fun and healthy snacks for team meetings. I have worked for the past few months learning about global culinary dishes and their spices, and creating recipes for every country or continent that participates in DI. It is true—food brings people together. So let’s come together to celebrate our global DI community and taste a few cuisines from around the world. See my videos and recipes by visiting my YouTube channel.

I’m excited to give back to the DI community in this new way and if you’re like me, you’re passionate about making sure that DI continues to nurture children’s creativity, self-expression, and mental growth. If you want to give back too, there are so many ways. Here are 3 ways to give back today.

  1. Become a Team Manager and start a DI team TODAY
  2. Make a tax-deductible donation to DI TODAY
  3. Volunteer with your local DI Affiliate TODAY

I hope you enjoyed my DI story and cooking videos. It all comes from my heart to yours.