In Our November, 2017 Issue:

‘Philando Feeds the Children’ distributes first funds to J.J. Hill Elementary


It was hugs all around as Metro State stu­dents met the fam­ily of Phi­lando Castile on Fri­day, Oct. 13 at the ele­men­tary school where Castile worked as a nutri­tion supervisor.

Psychology major Ronnie Erickson gets a hug from Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, at J.J. Montessori in St. Paul on Oct. 13, 2017.

Castile was shot and killed July 6, 2016 by a St. Anthony police offi­cer dur­ing a traf­fic stop.

Inspired by Castile’s life and work, Pam Fer­gus and her stu­dents in PSYC 212, Intro­duc­tion to Diver­sity and Ethics in Psy­chol­ogy, designed a ser­vice project to raise aware­ness of food inse­cu­rity. They set out to help the stu­dents of J.J Hill Montes­sori Mag­net in St. Paul, those who called Castile “Mr. Phil.”

The PSYC 212 stu­dents crafted an online fundrais­ing effort at the start of fall semes­ter. They set an ini­tial goal of $5,000 to cover J.J. Hill’s unpaid lunch accounts. They shared and pro­moted the Phi­lando Feeds the Chil­dren cam­paign on social media plat­forms. Within days, dona­tions far sur­passed their goal.

To date, their efforts have raised over $94,000 — enough to pay off the lunch debts for the entire St. Paul Pub­lic Schools system.

The first school to have its lunch debts paid off? J.J. Hill, of course.

We are here today because of Miss Pamela Fer­gus and her stu­dents at Metro State… She was inspired and that’s why she devel­oped the ‘Phi­lando Feeds the Chil­dren’ cam­paign,” said Valerie Castile, Philando’s mother, to ele­men­tary stu­dents gath­ered in the J.J. Hill cafe­te­ria on Oct. 13.

We had an idea that we could do Mr. Phil’s job, and get you fed every day. We are not going to stop. We are going to keep rais­ing money,” Fer­gus told the chil­dren. Then she and Valerie Castile pre­sented a $10,000 check to the school. The funds are enough to erase at least two years worth of debt.

This [cam­paign] is def­i­nitely some­thing that res­onated with me. Mr. Phil loved chil­dren and J.J. Hill. He was very pas­sion­ate about child nutri­tion,” said Stacy Kop­pen, direc­tor of Nutri­tion Ser­vices for St. Paul Pub­lic Schools, as she received the check.

After the kids had been excused for recess and the lunch­room qui­eted, the Metro State stu­dents filled their own lunch trays with whole grain pan­cakes, fruit com­pote, and fresh veg­gies from the salad bar. Fer­gus tried to pay for lunches for her stu­dents, but the J.J. Hill nutri­tion ser­vices staff told her, “It’s on us.”

Pamela Fergus, some of her students in PSYC 212, and Nutrition Services staff pose for photos at  J.J. Hill Montessori in St. Paul on Oct. 13, 2017. The class presented a check for $10,000 to the school to pay off more than a year’s worth of student lunch debt.

Over their meal, Fer­gus and her stu­dents talked about the mean­ing and impact of their fundrais­ing cam­paign. “It’s gone so suc­cess­fully. We kept mak­ing goals and kept exceed­ing them,” said Rita Koina, a Psy­chol­ogy major.

They dis­cussed how schools can spend more money in the class­room if they don’t have to worry about the cafe­te­ria. Kids learn bet­ter on full stom­achs and free of the stigma of unpaid debts, they said. And that’s what moti­vates them to keep their cam­paign going.

We are try­ing hard to make it big­ger and bet­ter every day. I got so emo­tional meet­ing Valerie Castile, and I can’t wait to keep this going. It’s crazy how big it went overnight. We were hop­ing for $5,000,” said Ron­nie Erick­son, a Psy­chol­ogy major. She brought her son, a mid­dle school stu­dent, to meet the Castile fam­ily and see the pos­i­tive impact of com­mu­nity giving.

Valerie Castile offered a bold chal­lenge to the Metro State stu­dents and the “Phi­lando Feeds the Chil­dren” cam­paign. “I’ve been get­ting lots of feed­back about hav­ing this pro­gram go nation­wide,” she said. “No child will be hun­gry. Let’s see if we can make that happen.”