Before he was shot and killed by a police officer after a traffic stop, Philando Castile routinely bought lunch at the school where he worked for kids who couldn't afford it. Now, a charity created to honor Castile has bought lunch for thousands of children in his district — and they've raised so much money that Castile's legacy will only continue to grow.
The charity, called Philando Feeds the Children, set out with the goal of erasing the lunch debt at J.J. Hill school, where Castile worked. There's a low cutoff in the district for children to receive free lunch, meaning kids above that cutoff who still can't afford to buy lunch end up racking up lunch debt. Castile often helped these kids out when he was a nutrition services supervisor at the school. Some of the kids, however, had gotten behind, which is where the charity aimed to step in.
The response to Philando Feeds the Children has been so high that the charity was able to wipe out the entire district's worth of lunch debt with a donation of $35,000.
"That means that no parent of the 37,000 kids who eat meals at school need worry about how to pay that overdue debt," the manager of the charity wrote on their YouCaring website. "Philando is STILL reaching into his pocket, and helping a kid out. One by one. With your help. Your donations will fill that pocket for years to come."
Castile's death made headlines and broke hearts across the country when a police officer in Minnesota shot him multiple times after stopping him for broken brake lights. Castile's girlfriend and daughter were in the car, and Castile's girlfriend recorded the immediate aftermath of the shooting. There was also a dashcam recording of the incident, which shows the conversation as it took place.
After Officer Jeronimo Yanez asked Castile for his license and registration, Castile informed the officer that he had a weapon, and then the officer shot Castile when he believed Castile was reaching for the gun. Castile and his girlfriend both claimed at the time that he was reaching for his wallet and not the gun. Officer Yanez was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter one year after the shooting too place, a decision that sparked protests in Minnesota.
Through this charity, though, Castile can be remembered for much more than the way in which he lost his life. Philando Feeds the Children started as a class project at Metropolitan State University, and its original goal was to raise $5,000 just to make a dent in the lunch debt at Castile's school. They've kept raising the goal as the donations keep rolling in, though, and they're currently at just under $140,000 raised.
"The pocket's gotten pretty deep," Pam Fergus, the charity's organizer, told CNN, likening the charity to Castile's pockets, from which he would often pull lunch money for children who needed it.
In his job as nutrition services supervisor, Castile was close with many of the kids at his school. He knew all of them by name and knew which kids needed special diets, so that he could watch out for them and keep them from eating anything that they shouldn't. Fergus said that everyone knew how much he cared about the kids who he worked with and that it was common knowledge that he would often buy lunches for kids who needed it.
"Philando was famous for that,” Fergus told Fox 9. “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."
Castile can't take money out of his pockets anymore to give to his kids — but at least Philando Feeds the Children won't let any child in the district worry about where the money for their next lunch will come from.