October 20, 2017

How a fundraiser in Philando Castile’s memory may wipe out school lunch debt in St. Paul

Get inspired by three stories of innovation and ingenuity across America

Volunteers from St. Paul Public Schools serve food to guests outside J.J. Hill Montessori School after a funeral service for Philando Castile, who worked at Montessori as a cafeteria manager. Castile was shot and killed July 6, 2016, by police in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Every Friday, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions individuals and organizations are creating in their communities. Want to share a story from your hometown? Email us at info@therenewalproject.com.

Eliminating student lunch debt: An online fundraiser inspired by Philando Castile—who was shot and killed by police during a traffic stop on July 6, 2016, in a Minneapolis suburb—was meant to eliminate the lunch debt at the school where he worked. But the crowdfunding campaign has raised so much money that it may eliminate lunch debt for the entire St. Paul, Minnesota, school district. The campaign, started by Pamela Fergus, a psychology professor at a Minnesota community college, initially set out to raise $5,000. As of today, it has raised over $85,000. In St. Paul, roughly 70 percent of student qualify for free lunch, according to Stacy Koppen, St. Paul Public Schools’ nutrition services director; despite this, “about 2,000 students end up owing money for lunch at the end of the school year,” Koppen told the Star Tribune. Castile was known for helping students pay for lunch by contributing his own money. “His murder shook me to my core. As an educator, I had to stand up and do something for HIS students,” Fergus wrote in a series of Facebook comments on the crowdfunding page. “We will work to keep his name a positive force in the Twin Cities especially as it relates to loving and caring for children.”

Cafe with a cause: A new cafe in Pasadena, California, will provide at-risk youth with jobs. The Rosebud Cafe, which opened on Oct. 10, hires young adults leaving the foster care system and the formerly-homeless. It is an extension of a four-year-old program started by the Rose City Church. The program operated as an apprenticeship that taught at-risk youths how to become baristas, and then helped them land jobs at local coffee shops. Now, with a permanent location, Rosebud Cafe can hire those who have passed through the Rose City Coffee cart program. The cafe is more understanding of its employees circumstances, and aims to work with them to ensure success. “Very few people understand what its like to be homeless,” Stephanie Sharp, Rosebud’s manager, told the Pasadena Star News. “In order to stabilize life, it takes patience and time.”

Opportunity stores: Natalie DuBose, a bakery owner in Ferguson, Missouri, has expanded her reach beyond her expectations—thanks to an innovative community engagement model piloted by Starbucks. The model involves creating special “Opportunity Stores” that engage local partners, in this case DuBose’s bakery, Natalie’s Cakes and More. “I just thought I was going to be a local bakery,” DuBose told NextCity. But since 2015, when Starbucks first contacted her, her operation has grown to 12 employees; now, her baked goods are supplied to over 30 Starbucks locations, as well as universities, grocery stores, and smaller food places, such as gas stations. According to Starbucks, the Opportunity Stores have created 1,100 jobs indirectly, through partnerships similar to the one with DuBose.

Mikhail Klimentov

Mikhail Klimentov is a contributor for The Renewal Project.