The fundraising project, called Philando Feeds the Children, was started by Pamela Fergus, a professor at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, as a project for her diversity and ethics class.
"Philando was 'Mr. Phil' to the students at J.J. Hill. He supervised their food program and interacted with the kids every day," the fundraising page at YouCaring.com reads. "He knew their names and their diets. He loved his job!"
The page states that Castile’s death affected all the children who knew and loved him.
“This fund hopes to provide the kids with a lasting connection to Mr. Phil,” it states.
The Star Tribune reported that Fergus set a goal of raising $5,000 for the project. Within the first two weeks, donors gave more than $50,000.
"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 told the children gathered in the lunchroom where Castile worked, according to CBS Minnesota.
About 70 percent of students in Saint Paul schools qualify for free lunch, the Star Tribune reported. About 2,000 students end up owing the district lunch money at the end of each school year.
Fergus told the students Friday that the project would continue to raise money so they could “always get a good lunch,” the newspaper said.
The fundraising website bears out that promise. As of Tuesday morning, the total funds raised had jumped to almost $74,000.
Valerie Castile said the feedback on the project had been overwhelming and that she was considering involving other school systems across the country.
“No child should go hungry,” she said. “And this project helps keep my son alive.”
The project received praise from a commenter on the fundraising site, who called Philando Castile’s death “senseless.”
“Philando worked at Chelsea Heights Elementary before J.J. Hill,” one woman wrote. “My oldest two boys remember him. I remember him hairnet and all.”
The woman called Castile a “gentle soul.”
“Thank you for giving voice to the importance of his life,” she wrote.