Judy Miles is a hidden hero of Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU), a school in Keene, Texas, United States.
On Wednesday afternoons, the recently retired adjunct professor of business can be found busy at work in the university’s Student Center, where she runs a campus food pantry for students who need groceries to get by.
Miles has always had a heart for students and felt a calling a few years back to ensure that students would not struggle with food insecurity. While visiting a graduation party some years ago, she heard one graduate share about her time at SWAU. The student briefly mentioned that tight finances meant she often did not have enough to eat during her time as a student but that she was glad for all she had accomplished.
While food was a side note of the young woman’s story of success and gratitude, it was what stuck with Miles, who felt moved to make a difference so that, as far as she could make it happen, never again would a SWAU student have the experience of food shortage.
As Miles thought and prayed about this calling, she shared the story with several friends and explored the idea of providing free food for SWAU students who were going to class hungry. Friends, church members, and university colleagues, inspired by Miles’ selflessness, began making contributions.
“No student should go to school hungry,” Miles says. “Students should not sit in class with their stomachs growling. What better group of people to help than our students, who are doing their best and working to better themselves?”
The food pantry began as an operation out of Professor Miles’s office. Supported by friends and colleagues, she offered basics and staples and received weekly visits from students who would drop by and pick up groceries from her.
As the impact grew, James The, vice president for Student Services at SWAU, agreed to designate a space on campus to store and distribute food. Miles bought some shelving and received a refrigerator and freezer as donations. In the fall of 2018, the SWAU Food Pantry officially found a home in the Student Center.
“The pantry has been a blessing for off-campus students like my sister and me,” Cecilia Cabrera, a graduate student at SWAU, said. “When we are struggling, we get a big help from this ministry. We are so thankful for Mrs. Miles and those from the community that donate to make this possible.”
Miles continues to dedicate her time and resources to the SWAU Food Pantry with weekly pantry hours. She now receives monthly food donations from two local organizations: Bread Connection in Cleburne and Grandview Seventh-day Adventist Church Food Bank in Grandview. Many faculty and staff members contribute financially through monthly payroll deductions, by volunteering their time and donating pantry items.
In Spring 2020, when classes moved online, Miles adjusted by providing curbside pickup for students in need. With students back on campus this school year, the Student Center is once again serving as the food pantry’s distribution site each Wednesday, making a difference from a team of hidden heroes.