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STANDARDS

NGSS: Core Idea: PS1.A

CCSS: Reading Informational Text: 7

TEKS: 6.2D, 7.2D, 8.2D, C.2E, C.2H, C.4A

Yum, Mac 'N' Cheese!

Discover the history and science behind a beloved American food

AS YOU READ, THINK ABOUT how different cultures, events, and scientific discoveries can influence what we eat.

In 1802, the third U.S. President, Thomas Jefferson, held a dinner at the White House. On the menu? A new dish he’d discovered while traveling in France—macaroni and cheese! Although it was originally made with expensive cheeses and pastas imported from Europe, mac ’n’ cheese would evolve into an affordable food and a nationwide obsession.

During the Great Depression in the 1930s, a crumbling economy left people struggling to feed their families. They needed inexpensive food—and an idea hatched by Grant Leslie, a pasta salesman in St. Louis, Missouri, delivered it. To help sell boxes of noodles, the salesman began bundling them with packets he filled with grated processed cheese made by the Kraft cheese company. Processed cheese contains emulsifiers, chemical additives that prevent fats and oils in the cheese from separating when heated. That creamy cheese sauce became the key to mac ’n’ cheese.

Kraft executives hired the salesman and turned his creation into its now-iconic boxed mac ’n’ cheese. Each package could feed a family of four for just 19 cents— the price per box in 1937. In the first year alone, Americans bought more than 8 million boxes. Today, Kraft sells nearly a million boxes a day! And with so many people dining in during the coronavirus pandemic, recent data shows that Americans have been reaching for this quick, easy comfort food more than ever.

The third U.S. president, Thomas Jefferson, held a dinner at the White House in 1802. A new dish was on the menu. He had found it while traveling in France. It was macaroni and cheese! At first, it was made with expensive cheeses and pastas brought from Europe. But mac ’n’ cheese would become a food anyone could afford. It would also become a nationwide craze.

During the Great Depression in the 1930s, times were tough. People struggled to feed their families. They needed inexpensive food. Grant Leslie, a pasta salesman in St. Louis, Missouri, came up with an idea. He was trying to sell boxes of noodles. So he filled packets with grated processed cheese made by the Kraft cheese company. Then he sold them with the noodles. Processed cheese contains emulsifiers. These chemical additives prevent fats and oils in the cheese from separating when heated. That creamy cheese sauce became the key to mac ’n’ cheese.

Kraft executives hired the salesman. They turned his creation into their boxed mac ’n’ cheese, which is now famous. Each package could feed a family of four for just 19 cents. That was the price per box in 1937. The first year it was available, Americans bought more than 8 million boxes. Today, Kraft sells nearly a million boxes a day! And with so many people staying home during the coronavirus pandemic, demand has increased. Americans are reaching for this quick, easy comfort food more than ever.

27%

The percent increase in sales of Kraft Mac ’n’ Cheese during the first 13 weeks of 2020

The percent increase in sales of Kraft Mac ’n’ Cheese during the first 13 weeks of 2020

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