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"My Work is All COVID, All the Time"

June 9, 2020

Emily Ingebretsen graduated from Millsaps in 2009 with a degree in political science before pursuing a master's degree in international affairs and economics at the New School in New York City. Today, the influence of Millsaps' Dr. Iren Omo-Bare, associate professor emeritus of government and politics, still resonates in her work as marketing and communications manager for Food Bank for New York City.

"Anyone who had Dr. Omo-Bare knows what an amazing professor he was, but on a personal level, he took my generalized 'I want to make a difference in the world' mindset and challenged it with realities and complexities I never could've imagined," Ingebretsen said. "His classes drove me to be more analytical and nuanced in my worldview and realize how little I knew and how much there was to learn."

While Ingebretsen isn't currently working in international affairs, she sees her work with hunger in New York City during a pandemic as challenging as any international issue.

Food Bank For New York City is New York City's largest hunger-relief organization, serving 1.5 million New Yorkers a year through a city-wide network of soup kitchens and food pantries. Its member network is comprised of over 1,000 soup kitchen and food pantries across all five boroughs. Ingebretsen's work as marketing and communications manager involves telling compelling stories and inspiring people to support by donating, advocating, or volunteering.

"My work includes managing our social media accounts, interacting with our digital communities, creating content (from photographing things myself to hiring full video crews), reaching out to influencers and celebrities, dreaming up new campaigns, working with partners to amplify our mission or raise money, and in general promoting and cheering on the good work that Food Bank and our member network do," she said.

The current coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed her work.

"My work is all COVID, all the time," she said. "Before COVID, 1 in 5 New Yorkers were already struggling with food insecurity. The pandemic has magnified this struggle and the inequities in our city, particularly among low-income communities of color. We've never seen need like what we are seeing right now. More people are showing up to food pantries and soup kitchens, many for the first time. The need is extreme and, at times, very difficult to wrap your mind around."

Ingebretsen credits her co-workers for helping her manage the stress of her work. "They are the most incredible group of people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. We are tight-knit and support each other through it all."

In addition to her co-workers, Ingebretsen's former Millsaps roommates provide another outlet for her.

"I don't know what good karma I had from a past life, but I had the incredible fortune of being placed in a dorm suite in Galloway with a group of women who became my family," said Ingebretsen. "Not only are they still some of my closest friends, we actually keep an active group chat going and touch base regularly."