At J.J. Hill Montessori, a public school in St. Paul, Minn., some students are eligible for free lunches. The ones who aren’t occasionally have trouble finding the money to pay, which could result in debt owed to the school. The nutritional director of J.J. Hill, Stacy Koppen, says that the cost of feeding a child for the year is about $400, which would be a pretty significant debt for an elementary schoolchild.
This is where Philando Castile used to come in. Castile was the cafeteria supervisor at J.J. Hill, and he was beloved by students and teachers alike because he would frequently pay for children’s lunches out of his own pocket.
Castile was killed by police officer Jeronimo Yanez in July of 2016. Yanez pulled Castile over while driving in a suburb of St. Paul. Castile told the officer he was armed, and was reaching for his license and registration when Yanez shot at him seven times in response, despite the presence of Castile’s girlfriend and four-year-old daughter. Castile died soon after, and Yanez was acquitted of all charges of manslaughter and dangerous discharge of a firearm a year later.
“His death changed who I am,” Pam Fergus, a professor at Inver Hills Community College, told WCCO.
To honor Castile’s memory, Fergus has started a fundraiser dedicated to feeding the children who can’t pay for their meals at J.J. Hill. The project, called Philando Feeds the Children (which you can donate to here), raises money to pay for lunches for children in need. It works in conjunction with St. Paul Public Schools’ own campaign to eliminate all lunch debt at the school called Food for Thought (which you can donate to here).
Fergus has been in close contact with Castile’s mother, Valerie. “She said the only thing I want for my son is for people to remember him with honor and dignity,” said Fergus. At the time of this writing, Philando Feeds the Children has raised over $17,000.