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Photo courtesy Joan Edman

The St. Paul, Minnesota, school where Philando Castile worked as a cafeteria supervisor is now honoring his legacy by paying for students’ lunches, just as he did. Castile, who was fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop in 2016, worked at the J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School, where he made a point of memorizing the students’ names and food allergies and often paid for their lunches out of his own pocket. Now, with the Philando Feeds the Children fund created by local college professor Pamela Fergus, donors are following his example by collecting money to pay off lunch debt at elementary schools.

J. J. Hill offers free lunches to eligible students, but students who aren’t eligible and can’t pay for the lunches end up running a debt. In an interview with WCCO, Stacy Koppen, the nutritional services director for the St. Paul Public Schools, explained how Castile helped kids who might not be able to pay for meals.

“No child goes hungry so we ensure that every student has breakfast and also lunch whether they can pay or not,” she said. “Lunches just for one elementary student are about $400 a year. When a student couldn’t pay for their lunch, a lot of times [Castile] actually paid for their lunch out of his own pocket.”

The fund was started on YouCaring by Fergus, who said that Castile’s “death changed my life” and that she wanted to create a “lasting connection” for the students to remember his generous spirit. All funds from Philando Feeds the Children will go to paying off lunch debt at J.J. Hill and other local elementary schools. Castile’s mother told Fergus that she would be matching the full amount raised with a donation of her own.

“She said the only thing I want for my son is for people to remember him with honor and dignity,” Fergus said.

As of Friday morning, the YouCaring fundraiser had surpassed its $10,000 goal with over $17,000 in donations.

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