Incarceration Inspiration

My name is Emily O'Brien and I went to prison on a mission. A mission to change myself and a mission to make a difference. I didn't know how I’d make a difference at the time, but I knew I would find something I cared about that would benefit from a purpose driven face-lift.

Coming to prison as a first-time offender was unnerving, and I felt so much anxiety at first. If you think its hard on the outside to eat a healthy diet, being in prison brings that challenge to the next level. I think most people I shared my time with would attest to the fact that food is often a way to combat anxiety and depression. Maintaining a healthy balance is difficult, and when this poses a challenge to your self image it just makes an already depressing situation worse, like adding insult to injury. 

It was only a month or so in when I noticed that some of the women were making their own popcorn recipes with the ingredients possible within the food budget. I was instantly struck by how really smart and creative it was. Popcorn was like this simple blank canvas for women of all backgrounds to express themselves through different mixes of spices and other flavours.

A lot of people love popcorn, and it is cheap to buy and goes a long way. It's also so much healthier than baked goods and most of the junk food that was available in the canteen. It is one of those snacks you can eat a lot of when you feel restless and bored and not feel super guilty about it. It’s also a social snack. You usually make a giant bowl of it for you and your friends to share over some conversation, games or watching something on TV. You can also just eat one kernel at a time, the bowl can last for hours, and you do not have to worry about gaining weight. Well…not as much!

So it all sort of all came together at once: I would start a popcorn company that uses quality ingredients and offers unique flavour, some inspired by the very ones we made inside prison. Most of all, one that attempts to remove some of the stigma associated with having a prior conviction, and one that has fun and a sense of humour about itself. The company can give offenders the opportunity and confidence to gain and maintain pro-social employment, keeping the community safer by helping ex-cons refrain from returning to their old ways. It just seemed like all the stars had aligned and overnight it became my mission to build this company. Comeback Snacks - made with conviction!