Camp News
Camp Stories

Fueling the Future

By Sarah Gillie
March 9, 2021

From Summer Staff to Super Bowl

From fresh veggies and fruit to hearty proteins (and occasional chicken tenders), one of the many impactful aspects of Camp is our kitchen. Staffed by talented individuals who create incredible meals, the kitchen team is able to provide nutrients of all kinds to our campers and our staff. Part of this annual culinary team is the Nutrition (NUT) Team. These are students enrolled in Nutrition and Dietary Science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). We had the opportunity to catch up with one of these team members, Jessica Pastuf, to see where it all began for her and what she has been up to lately.

Which years were you at camp?
Summer 2017, and weekends 2017-2018.

What made you want to work with nutrition? What brought you to work with our nutrition team at camp?
Growing up I always really enjoyed food and cooking. As I progressed into high school and began playing sports, I acquired a new perspective on the value of food and the impact of nutrition on overall health, and the ability to support better performance while being active. When I learned about Camp, and the opportunity to apply what I was learning in college about medical nutrition therapy, with the actual production of food I was instantly so excited. I had always worked at summer camps throughout high school and in my early years of college as a counselor, but Victory Junction is of course so different – I took so much pride in being a part of such a unique, hardworking, humble and energetic group. To pair the culture of camp with gaining experience in the field in which I was pursuing my education and to be able to participate in the hands-on cooking of food that was of appropriate nutritional contents for the campers was just about the greatest opportunity I could have imagined!

Jessica Pastuf in kitchen at Victory Junction
Jessica preparing delicious and nutritious dishes at Camp in 2017.

What have you been up to since your time with us?
I graduated from UNCG in 2018 with my Bachelors in Nutrition and Dietetics, and moved to Salt Lake City, UT where I pursued my Master’s degree in Nutrition at the University of Utah. I completed my dietetic internship with rotations at the VA hospital in Salt Lake as well as the University of Utah in their sports nutrition department. I also continued to gain culinary nutrition experience, and apply my knowledge of sports nutrition while working with the Utah Jazz under their head chef/sports dietitian. This experience was quite similar to camp – I loved being immersed in the production of nutritionally adequate fuel for the athletes we served, much like preparing medically appropriate food for the campers.

Following graduation in May 2020, I accepted a seasonal position as a part of the Performance Nutrition staff with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In this role I was integrated with both the culinary and sports performance staff to plan and help execute team menus, as well as support individual athletes in meeting their performance nutrition goals. I traveled in advance of the team for away games to support hotel catering staffs’ in executing team meals, and I played a role in game day fueling by setting up fuel in the locker room, being present on the sideline during the game, and coordinating catering for post-game meals. I just recently (this month!) sat for, and passed my national board exam to become a Registered Dietitian.

Do you feel your time at camp prepared you for any of your future endeavors? How so?
I felt my time at camp was one of the most integral and impactful experiences I had in pursuing my future endeavors. The opportunity I had in camp to work as a part of a multidisciplinary staff with both the medical staff, culinary staff and camp directors propelled my understanding of the teamwork needed to properly care for a patient, client, camper, etc. The ability to fully immerse myself in the camp setting, and directly apply my knowledge of clinical nutrition in the form of the actual food campers ate was so unique.

Jessica Pastuf at Raymond James Stadium
Jessica on staff with the Tampa Buccanneers' Performance Nutrition Team.

What’s been your biggest accomplishment for you in your line of work so far?
I feel my biggest accomplishment has been in my current role for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I joined the team on the first day of training camp. I felt I was able to jump in and make an impact, even in small ways from the start. I think developing relationships, and identifying avenues for involvement to progress an organization’s efficiency in operations is important. With my background in culinary nutrition, I was able to take on the unique role of traveling in advance of the team to work with the culinary staff of each away game team hotel to ensure the team meals being prepared met the expectations set forth by the team for meals the night before and the day of games. This was an honor for me to be trusted by the organization to carry out those expectations and elevate the fueling experience on away trips.

What are your future goals?
I hope to be able to continue in a line of work where I will be able to advance my knowledge of performance nutrition and health care. I also have a deep passion for leadership that I hope to be able to expand upon with the goals of one day being a director of a nutrition program to guide and lead others with a passion for food and nutrition. I miss camp all the time and always say, if I could come back, I’d drop whatever I was doing to head that way – it is such a special place!

For Jessica, Camp was the bread and butter of her career which helped her to rise into the main course of working with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Whether fueling Super Bowl athletes or a camp full of friends, Jessica knows the lasting impact of good nutrition. Thank you to Jessica and to all of our kitchen staff who help feed us, fuel us, love us, and put the cherry on top of our Camp experiences.