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Philando Castile fundraiser wipes out all student lunch debt in St. Paul

Philando Castile fundraiser
Philando Castile fundraiser clears all student lunch debt in St. Paul 01:28

MINNEAPOLIS -- A fundraising campaign to honor the memory of Philando Castile raised enough money to help pay off every St. Paul Public Schools students' lunch debt for at least a year, CBS Minnesota reports.

Castile, 32, a longtime school district employee, was fatally shot by St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez while sitting behind the wheel during a traffic stop in July 2016. The incident was captured in a wrenching video posted on Facebook by his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds. The officer was charged with manslaughter and later acquitted by a jury.

Castile spent years working as a nutrition supervisor for the J.J. Hill Montessori School, and his mother, Valerie, presented a $10,000 check to the school on Friday.

Pam Fergus, a psychology professor at Inver Hills Community College, and her students raised more than $70,000 in Castile's honor through an online fundraiser called "Philando Feeds the Children."

Funeral Held For MN Police Shooting Victim Philando Castile
Volunteers from St. Paul Public Schools serve food to guests outside J.J. Hill Montessori School on July 14, 2016 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Stephen Maturen / Getty

Many children fondly remember Castile as the staffer affectionately called "Mr. Phil."

"We just had this little idea that we were going to help do Mr. Phil's job and make sure you guys have good lunch to eat every day," Fergus said to a crowded lunchroom of students.

St. Paul School District officials said Castile would often pay out of his own pocket for children's lunches if they couldn't afford it.

The district's nutrition services director, Stacy Koppen, told the Star Tribune that total student lunch debt for a full school year is about $60,000.

"We as a community have to work together in order for things to work," Valerie Castile said. "This would've meant everything to him."

Valerie Castile hopes the campaign will inspire similar fundraising efforts in communities across the country.

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