Philando Feeds the Children raises $106,000 to pay off school lunch debt

In St. Paul, Metro State University's diversity and ethics class is filled with hungry minds, but the students are giving back to their community by feeding their appetite for social justice.

For their service project last fall, Professor Pam Fergus came up with the idea of starting a crowdfunding campaign called Philando Feeds the Children. The goal was to raise $5,000 to wipe out lunch debt for students at JJ Hill Montessori, where Philando Castile worked as a nutrition supervisor and often paid for students who didn't have enough lunch money out of his own pocket. Castile died in an officer-involved shooting in 2016.

"Philando was famous for that,” said Professor Fergus. “His mother told me that every day he would call her after leaving his job at JJ Hill and talk about the kids. Another kid didn't have the money in his account, so Philando would take $3 out of his pocket and buy that kid’s lunch for the day."

“I really like being able to do something that would resonate and have a lasting impact on the kids [Castile] had an impact on,” said Heather Moenck, student.

Since it started in September, Philando Feeds the Children has raised over $106,000, which was more than enough to pay the entire student lunch debt at JJ Hill. In fact, earlier this week, Fergus and her students dropped off a check to cover the lunch debt for students at all 56 schools in the St. Paul public school system. 

“I feel really amazed by that,” said Fergus. “It’s really fun to write a check that doesn't come out of your own account and pays off something so wonderful."

The students may have earned an "A" for their class project, but they say helping feed the kids Castile was so passionate about is more rewarding than any grade.

“I think everyone can agree kids need to be fed and that this is important,” said Moenck. “It’s one of those things that is really important, so we can move forward and heal together.”