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This Popcorn Provides More Than Just Butter

Prospector Popcorn

The Prospector Theater in Ridgefield, Connecticut has been employing adults with disabilities since it opened its doors in 2014. And that means creating popcorn, which everyone knows has long been part of the theater experience. But when the pandemic closed their doors, they needed to pivot.

Since October 2021, Prospector Popcorn, a gourmet snack with sweet and savory coatings as well as add-ins like white chocolate-flavored drizzle and local maple syrup, has been shipped to every one of the 50 states in the country. And behind it are a group of “Prospects,” what theater founder Valerie Jensen and the staff at the Prospector call employees.

The nonprofit Prospector Theater was founded by Jensen in 2014 to create jobs for people living with disabilities, which comprises seventy-five percent of those Jensen employs. “For people who identify as having a disability in the United States, it’s an employment crisis,” said Adam Ingberman, Prospector Popcorn’s director of digital marketing. “Eighty percent of people in the U.S. who identify as having a disability are not employed. If you want to give someone’s life purpose, there’s nothing better than someplace to earn a paycheck.”

At this nonprofit, when someone living with a disability inquires about work, the team begins to search for a way to integrate them into the process. They delve into the Prospect’s life to discover their passions, their joys, their skills. All of these combine to create what the Prospector Theater calls their “sparkle.” Then, the group figures out how that sparkle translates into something the Prospect can do in the theater. These folks living with disabilities are in every layer of the theater, from the person taking tickets to members of the board.

What makes a great popcornista? “There are so many jobs that go into that bag of popcorn,” said Ingberman. “Can you draw? We design the bags in-house. You can be a popcorn baker. You can run the caramelizer to get the caramel on the popcorn or drizzle chocolate. We have people who measure our popcorn and bag it. You could ship it. There’s no one skill. What do you like to do? We’re constantly looking for ways to create more jobs.”

Regularly available popcorn flavors range from Classic Caramel to Buffalo Cheddar, though they create new, specially available flavors to celebrate occasions such as World Down Syndrome Day (March 21) and Autism Acceptance Month (April). Festive flair includes the addition of multi-colored mini chocolate chips and edible glitter to these unique bags. Ingberman’s favorite is the Belgian Chocolate Truffle. “It’s sweet, it’s decadent. It’s a little sticky. And it’s got these pretzel pieces in it so you get a salted toffee flavor,” he said.


LA Bourgeois

LA Bourgeois is a writer and creativity coach based in the eclectic food enclave of Ithaca, New York. Her enthusiastic embrace of food and business led her to run a cafe/bar and wine shop in Colorado for a little over a decade. Now, she uses her words to delight her readers and share her adventures at



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