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Fundraiser to Forgive Students’ School Lunch Debt Honors Cop Shooting Victim Philando Castile

The fundraiser aims to continue the legacy of compassion shown by the school nutrition services supervisor
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The Philando Feeds the Children program has raised over $61,000 to combat student lunch debt in public schools.

The “Philando Feeds the Children” program — launched to honor police shooting victim Philando Castile — has raised over $61,000 to feed children in the St. Paul, Minnesota, schools in under two weeks.

The 32-year-old Castile, who was shot to death by a police officer in front of his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter in July 2016, was a nutrition services supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in St. Paul and was known for his generous behavior toward students.

The YouCaring fundraiser, started by Inver Hills Community College professor Pam Fergus, was created to ensure that Castile’s legacy of helping children lives on. Fergus also wanted to battle school lunch debt, which the professor says can reach anywhere between $45,000 and $60,000 each year in St. Paul schools.

School lunch debt affects students who can’t afford to pay for their lunches but who aren’t eligible for relief programs. The problem — which has been increasingly in the spotlight in recent years as some governments have taken action to address it and charities have garnered donations from such notables as singer John Legend — was a major concern of Castile’s.

“When a student couldn’t pay for their lunch, a lot of times (Castile) actually paid for their lunch out of his own pocket,” Stacy Koppen, nutritional services director for the St. Paul Public Schools, told local CBS affiliate WCCO.

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Fergus started the project for her small Diversity and Ethics college course. “My initial goal for the class,” she told the NY Daily News, “was $5,000 for just J.J. Hill ... Philando’s school.” Castile’s mother planned to match that amount with donations from the Philando Castile Relief Fund.

But since the launch, more than $61,000 has been raised to combat student school lunch debt in Castile’s memory. Fergus told the Daily News that she is preparing to increase the goal to “try to benefit all St. Paul public school lunch programs in Philando’s name.”

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You can donate to Philando Feeds the Children, here.