Students at J.J Hill Montessori are always provided breakfast and lunch, but since not every child is eligible for the free lunch program, that often means that children are incurring debt for their food.
“No child goes hungry so we ensure that every student has breakfast and also lunch whether they can pay or not,” said Stacy Koppen, Nutritional Services Director for St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS), adding that “Lunches just for one elementary student are about $400 a year.”
J.J. Hill’s former cafeteria supervisor, Philando Castile, who was killed in 2016 during a traffic stop, often worked to make sure that kids were eating all the same.
“When a student couldn’t pay for their lunch, a lot of times (Castile) actually paid for their lunch out of his own pocket,” she said.
Inver Hills Community College professor Pam Fergus, who said that Castile’s death “changed who I am,” was inspired by Castile’s generosity and set up the fundraising project, which aims to clear out all the lunch debts at the school.
In less than a week, the campaign had raised $3,500 out of its $5,000 goal.