During his time as a school nutrition supervisor in St. Paul, Philando Castile was known to help those students who couldn't afford to buy lunch by dipping into his own pocket. When Castile was killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in 2016, an organization was set up in his name to carry on this legacy of the small but meaningful way he was impacting the community. Now, two years later, Philando Feeds the Children has amplified his work to thousands and announced this week it had paid off the lunch debt of every student in the St. Paul public school system.
"No parent of the 37,000 kids who eat meals at school need worry about how to pay that overdue debt," an update on the campaign's fundraising page reads. "Philando is STILL reaching into his pocket, and helping a kid out. One by one."
Philando Feeds the Children has long surpassed its initial goal to raise $5,000. The campaign's page currently lists donations totaling over $130,000 from over 3,500 donors that range from $1.50 to $1,000. Pam Fergus, who runs the fundraiser, told CNN that she dropped off a $35,000 check to the school district's office this week, an amount that she says will cover the school lunch debt for every student in the district's 56 schools.
Fergus said that she hopes to expand the organization to the point where Castile's legacy of helping students pay for their lunch far exceeds the controversy that surrounded his untimely death.
"The pocket's gotten pretty deep," she told CNN. "I don't know how much it would take to help the whole state of Minnesota. There is no end goal. Basically, I want a million bucks in there."
At the time of his death, Castile had worked at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in St. Paul for two years. At the time of the creation of Philando Feeds the Children, Fergus told local CBS affiliate WCCO that Castile was famous for covering the cost of lunch himself for students who couldn't afford to buy their own. Fergus worked with Castile's mother Valerie to set up the initial fundraiser.
"She said the only thing I want for my son is for people to remember him with honor and dignity," Fergus told WCCO.
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