Miles Hoover

Year of Graduation: 
Miles Hoover

"It’s a way of looking at the world, of wanting to understand how the people who live closest to the problem see the problem."

At age 5, Miles Hoover ’15 boldly announced his career plan: to “be everything.” He imagined a life “trying a different thing every day,” he says. And while his experiential outlook remains, he finds fulfillment today in focusing on a singular passion — food justice. After graduating from Kenyon College with a degree in anthropology, Hoover moved back to his hometown of Canton, Ohio. Looking to make positive change at the local level, he took a post with AmeriCorps VISTA to spearhead the opening of a StarkFresh grocery store on Canton’s northeast side, a so-called food desert, in the middle of the pandemic. The store’s mission: to provide the community with locally sourced, nutrient-dense and affordable food options. Currently, Hoover juggles two food-centric jobs and volunteers as a de facto consultant for Canton for All People as that nonprofit makes plans to open a grocery store in Shorb, an area Hoover describes as “the poorest and highest-crime neighborhood in Canton.” We caught up with him to hear more about what drives his non sibi work.

How did you come to be charged with opening a grocery store at age 22?

I interviewed with the StarkFresh executive director and said I’m a space-oriented person and want to see something through to fruition, and he handed me the reins to this project. I started ripping out carpet the day I was hired. I did wiring and lights; I painted with friends. I had the ceiling tiles — which are stickers — printed by the McKinley Museum. I chose the point-of-sale system and applied to accept SNAP EBT. We did everything ourselves, and I’m so proud of us. It was an absolute labor of love.

What have you learned about yourself through your work?

I’ve always been academic, but I have ADHD that was undiagnosed through college. When I started ripping up carpet and wiring lights, lifting watermelons, running the grill — doing all this hands-on work — I found that I could go to work every day and feel good. I finally decided to take a deep breath and say, it’s OK if I don’t have an “email job.”

You were an anthropology major (with English and chemistry minors). How does that play into your interest with food?

I’ve always been passionate about food and food justice. I did research around local food systems at Kenyon using photovoice, which was the most enriching thing I’d ever done. Recently, I brought photos I took of the [Shorb] neighborhood to a Canton for All People barbecue and invited community members to provide qualitative feedback. I’m excited to do more of that kind of work. It’s a way of looking at the world, of wanting to understand how the people who live closest to the problem see the problem.

— Sarah Zobel

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the spring 2022 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.