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Perceptions of Kraft Dinner

lau-andree-52.jpg
by Andree Lau, CBCnews.ca

When I was growing up, Kraft Dinner was an exotic food. It was obviously not part of my Chinese family's traditional diet, but thanks to TV commercials and such, KD seemed fun and sure to be tasty.

I remember often begging my best friend in Grade 7 to trade her thermos of KD for my ham sandwich.

cgy-kd-cp683170.jpg
A study found Kraft Dinner is viewed differently by Canadians from contrasting income levels. (Ruth Bonneville/Canadian Press)

But once I had tasted KD, I realized it wasn't really the macaroni and cheese I wanted; it was the idea of having something novel and Westernized that I coveted.

I learned last week that Canadians' memories and perceptions of KD are astonishingly varied.

An associate professor at the University of Calgary co-authored a study that looked at people's perceptions of Kraft Dinner. It was really an examination of social attitudes between those who are "food secure" and those who are on low incomes and "food insecure" — where running out of food is a daily reality.

The study found that food-secure Canadians perceived KD as convenient, easy to prepare and popular among kids. They said for those reasons, KD was an acceptable (and popular) donation to food banks.

But for people on the receiving end, KD is seen as the food of last resort. To them, it represents money running out and food being scarce. Some said it underscored the fact they couldn't afford butter or milk to make the KD. And many parents said their kids hated the taste because they had to eat the mac and cheese so much.

The story we posted on the CBC site generated an incredibly interesting discussion from people who grew up receiving KD from food banks to higher-income Canadians defending what they sent to social agencies. Others recalled subsisting on KD in their university days, while others talked about the need to teach the poor better nutritional and cooking skills.

What's your relationship with Kraft Dinner?

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Comments

Stitchwitch

KD is nothing but a toxic stew disguised as food. Eat enough of it and you'll begin to glow in the dark. I loath the stuff. My Mum always made mac and cheese from scratch and now I do the same. Boil some water, grate some real cheese and then bake in the oven, not a big deal, certainly not rocket science and at least I know what I'm eating.

Posted September 2, 2008 09:36 PM

allanm

Vancouver

I've never bought it, but if I did I'd be sure to add plenty of meat and vegetables to it. Unfortunately, many people do not. And some people seem to think it not even necessary, which leads to disease like diabetes if they fall into a habit of eating such "instant" food often. I know someone very dear to me who did which leaves me very sad.

Posted September 3, 2008 12:48 AM

Sarah

NB

Allan M writes: "I've never bought it, but if I did I'd be sure to add plenty of meat and vegetables to it. Unfortunately, many people do not."

Kind of hard to add "plenty of meat and vegetables" if you got the KD from a food bank in the first place. When food banks have meat and vegetables to give away *at all*, it's canned stuff. Fresh food is a luxury to someone living on assistance.

The AIDS organization I'm involved with distributes vouchers for a local butcher and two local vegetable stands so that low-income clients with compromised immune systems will have a way to get hold of fresh meat and vegetables.

Posted September 3, 2008 08:26 AM

Brian Allardice

Shenzhen

I love the stuff. I can make real pasta and real cheese sauce thanks to the diligent efforts of both my wife and mother, but I never leave for China without a box or two with which to treat my Chinese friends to an exotic western dinner. Really, that unique, synthetic cheese-like taste cannot be immitated :-)

Cheers,
dba

Posted September 3, 2008 08:49 AM

Melina

Vancouver

I invite everyone to google the ingredients on what they eat. I once was babysitting for some young kids who were addicted to Kraft Dinner. I decided to look up the ingredients. Yellow #5 aka Tartrazine is what makes the cheese so bright yellow. Its a coal tar, industrial byproduct. In Europe, medical offices strongly recommend that this never, EVER be fed to children because it can lead to serious alergic reactions and potential health problems in later life. North america unfortunately doesnt have the same kind of guidelines.

Posted September 3, 2008 10:05 AM

Dot

Yukon

Ahh, KD. What a treat it was when I was a kid, getting Kraft Dinner! Especially when my mom cut up a hot dog so that when it was boiled, it curled up into a smilie shape, and then with the ketchup hair.. Lol. And then, when my husband and I were broke and living on our credit cards because our tiny paycheques couldn't stretch to cover rent and bills and food.. If we bought margarine to make kraft dinner, it meant we were having kraft dinner a few times that week. (Or no-name mac and cheese, donated to us by hubby's grandparents.) I have to say, I don't eat it anymore, because I can afford to not have to. But to those people who say that it's sludge, or made of stuff that shouldn't be eaten: I'd rather eat kraft dinner than nothing at all.

Posted September 3, 2008 10:42 AM

Darryl Gerrow

I personally love the stuff, from the spirals to the alfredo, from the white cheddar to the old standby orange! I lived on Easy Mac for my first year of university because of the ease of making a quick meal while studying. It's a quick snack in only 30 seconds.

And for the record, Yellow #5 (Tartrazine) is also used in the following food products, so please judge its "toxicity" accordingly:

Doritos
Kool-Aid
Gatorade
Corn Flakes
Muesli
Mountain Dew
ice cream
mustard
yogurt
marzipan
marmelade

Posted September 3, 2008 01:05 PM

Jeff

Ontario

I grew up eating this stuff hapily. To the point in high school we would all chip in a box and mix up around 12 boxes in a giant pot and make a time of it. Did this often.

Today, I work, contribute and still enjoy the stuff every so often. My spouse adds beef or lamb along with other stuff and then bakes it in the oven. Just killer.

If the food bank recipients don't like it or think we are just emptying out our cupboards, then I say Hey Dude/Dudette: GET A JOB.

Posted September 3, 2008 01:50 PM

Jennifer

Lethbridge

I love KD! It's especially tasty with real shredded cheese on top with lots of salt and pepper! I rarely make it any more (I actually can't remember the last time) because as an adult I'm more aware of what I'm putting into my body. And KD is not exactly nutrient dense! And I totally agree that nothing can compare to homemade baked mac and cheese. So after reading that KD contains coal tar, I'll be sticking with the stuff I make myself!

Posted September 3, 2008 01:52 PM

Beth

Guelph

As someone who has always been "food secure", I buy KD because it is inexpensive and quick. Ketchup or chili sauce on the side seems to improve it.

My home made version with old cheddar is way better and doesn't need condiments. But then, not everyone knows how to make the very simple white sauce base, so they're out of luck.

I can understand how people who get/got donations from food banks would have negative associations with it, especially if what they got were house brand versions. I tried some house brands; they were awful relative to KD.

Posted September 4, 2008 08:46 AM

VM

Edmonton

Hey Jeff, That's pretty crass. I don't think you can judge people like that. That's the kind of thinking that breeds contempt for those that are less fortunate. People have complicated issues and are often not black or white. If you want to help, please do. But comments like that which obviously don't add to the discussion are really uneccessary.

Posted September 4, 2008 09:53 AM

John

Kamloops

My family all call it crap dinner. When you can't afford anything better it fills the hole.

Posted September 4, 2008 10:17 AM

Frances

Kraft Dinner was a 'treat' in our house because it was something that had to be bought in the store. I grew up on a farm where we produced much of our own food, my grandmother even ground her own flour. I remember finally getting to try it and getting very sick, I did not eat it again until I was at a friends place for lunch during highschool. I rarely make it or cook it for my own family, but I do make mac & cheese in the oven. I think it is better and so do they. We grew up with the notion that we should not eat anything that was processed more than twice..........looks like still the best advice today for dietary needs and for safety of the consumer.

Posted September 4, 2008 12:23 PM

Brenders

Toronto

I feel that if we spent money regarding social issues like cooking lessons for lower income families, we would be spending our money wisely. Instead, however, we spend money on the study of the social diversity of food perspective. What a waste. This also seems to be some fantastic free advertising for Kraft. There is such a mis-management of our resources, that we get lost in the conversation. How bout we spend the money on the study of food...and buy healthy food choices for food banks.

Posted September 4, 2008 03:15 PM

Adam J. Snider

Well, I'm 43 yrs old and still enjoy KD to this day, though I admit I was using it as a last resort food in my younger days. It's very good if you mix in hamburger...mmmm...and lots of ketchup....mmmm...I'm gonna boil some water I think... and nuke the hamburger...

regards

Adam S.

Posted September 4, 2008 06:10 PM

Merv

ottawa

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm KD .. with hot dogs cut into little pieces .. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm I want some nowwwwwww

Posted September 5, 2008 11:21 AM

Debbie

Ontario

For me it brings back wonderful memories as a child.. Friday nights my parents would leave me in charge to look after my brother and to make supper, while they went off and shopped.. It was finally our night to eat our favorite KD and hotdogs... At that time it sure beat stew which we hated and would dump down the toilet as soon as mom left the room. Or vegies which we hated then too.. We used to eat every single morsel up, no putting our dish down for the dog to eat or fast flushes... Just enjoying every mouth full. To us it was a night with no parents,or meat and vegies,cassaroles all the stuff at the time we didn't like... Of course I have learned to enjoy all the above and cook it all the time. But I still love KD every once in awhile thinking of my brother who is now deceased and it will sometimes just make me smile...

Posted September 5, 2008 03:56 PM

Mike

Ontario

To heck with adding vegetables to K.D. Cut up a hot dog and toss it in. Gotta love K.D.!

Posted September 7, 2008 07:48 PM

Laura

Victoria

I think it becomes a 'comfort food' for people who don't eat it out of necessity. Those who ate it when they were young will probably always like the taste of it.

I never had KD as a child. My parents were boycotting Kraft, but they wouldn't have bought it - or Cheez Whiz, or white bread, or any of those brightly-coloured, sugary kids' cereals - anyway. We were rather pop-culture-food deprived.

When I tried KD for the first time, in university (surprise, surprise), I was very disappointed. It tasted like plastic. The experiment has not been repeated.

Those Annie's Pasta & Cheese boxes, on the other hand...

Posted September 8, 2008 10:21 AM

Roger

Ottawa

I hate the stuff. I won't eat it. I won't feed it to other people. I ate too much of it as a kid. I will starve instead of eating it. I'm a cook, so I know how to eat, and I do it on a fixed income. I teach all my friends to cook so that they don't have to eat that stuff. The best way to fix a bad diet is to learn how to cook.

Posted September 8, 2008 04:12 PM

Norm

I ate KD as a kid, and adult, with weiners and catsup and other variations. I have to say it doesn't take re-heating well. KD has carbs and protein and when you are half froze to death and tired it slips right down without chewing. Good if your teeth are bad. I am suprised the food bank recipients take such a dim view, but I understand, too much of it. From now on I'll eat the KD and contribute other things.

Posted September 9, 2008 01:55 AM

Maxwell House

WoW ,poverty as different levels I guess.
KD with baloney was a sunday meal at my house.

Posted September 9, 2008 04:59 AM

Helga

London

Shudder! I will only touch the stuff in a dire emergency.
a) I'm allergic to the tartrazine. 1 mouthful = 3 days of wheezing.
b) It's far, far more expensive than making mac-and-cheese from scratch.
So, thanks, but no thanks.

Posted September 9, 2008 07:58 PM

Bradley Jamieson

Growing up KD was served in my household maybe once or twice a month when my parents were tied up at work, or just too tired to cook a full-blown meal. I always hated it and would eat very little. But as I grew older, and became a struggling college student, KD became my best friend (I learn that adding spaghetti sauce, hamburger, or hot dogs adding a little something-something to mix things up). Now that I'm living at home again, with a sister who has celiac disease, KD is not a dietary resource in my household and I'm not going to complain one bit.

Posted September 10, 2008 05:14 AM

Joey Cook

Redmondville

There is one different type of food that I cannot complain about in this world and that is Kraft Dinner. Kraft Dinner is one of the main dietary sources of food that I have had in my house, since I was young. Everyyear, my parents would go to the grocery store and buy 4 boxes of Kraft Dinner as one of the items on the grocery list. After that, they would open up the boxes of Kraft Dinner and dump the macaroni and cheese in a big pot,3 or 4 times during the year and serve it to me with for dinner with Ketchup on top. MMMMMMMMM delicious. Now that I am old enough to learn how to cook on my own, I can always tear open a box of Kraft Dinner and dump the cheese and macaroni in the big pot with a few cups of water.

Posted September 10, 2008 10:35 AM

terry

toronto

KD was always a treat, my mom and dad cooked mainly with fresh veg and meat. All good stuff but not creamy and cheesy like good ole KD. Have you tasted the knock offs? Good gawd, it has to be KD or nothing. And for the weirdos that cover it in ketchup lemme tell u something, you are not a KD purist! I have thought when giving to food banks that it requires milk and butter to be added and it may not be the best thing to donate. That and the fact that nutritionally it lacks. My kids loved it ( they are teens now and theyre more concious of health so its rarely prepared)I'll always have a soft spot for KD and yes, it is my flabby butt.

Posted September 10, 2008 01:25 PM

Megan

I would have to agree with many of the post in which they regard their relationship with Kraft Dinner as one of nostalgic attachment. In our home Kraft Dinner was a treat often accompanied by fried bologna, and to this day Kraft Dinner is just not Kraft Dinner without some fried bologna. I think that a majority of Canadians can relate to a story that has been posted in some form or another while each adding their own twist. I will agree that Kraft Dinner may not be the most appetizing or nutritional food out there but it is one of simple pleasure, that either takes a person back to a time or place in your past that could either bring warm memories or sad.

Posted September 10, 2008 05:21 PM

Azeem

For me Kraft dinner was nonexistent until three years ago when I moved to Canada from the United Kingdom. I never recall seeing any boxes marked as Kraft dinner in the local supermarkets of grocery stores, but after some researching I found that it was marketed as Cheesy Past,. Sometimes global marketing under a different name doesn’t tend to work well.

When I started going to school in Canada I always hear my peers throw comments around saying “I’m going to go home and make a box of KD” imagine their surprise when I inquired what this KD is.

I agree with Laura when she mentioned that when she tried Kraft dinner for the first time that she was very disappointed, the first time I tried I thought the hype surrounding it was overrated and it tasted horrible. Although as time went by I realized that it wasn’t mostly the taste that was appealing about Kraft dinner, it was the concept of grabbing a couple of boxes, getting together with your friends experimenting by adding various additional ingredients and experimenting.

I think Kraft marketed the product as a means to give all of its customers that sense of nostalgic attachment. I know a lot of people after graduating from university like to sit back and think of the days that they ate nothing but Kraft dinner in university!

Posted September 11, 2008 08:54 AM

B.Martin

I remember as a kid having KD was a treat especially with cut up weiners and ketchup. Mmmm! I still eat it but not as much as when I first moved out of my parents house. In the first year out on my own money was tight and ate the NoName KD without milk and butter and it was still good. Better than going with no food at all.

Posted September 14, 2008 06:57 AM

Constance

Ottawa

"...while others talked about the need to teach the poor better nutritional and cooking skills."

I'm sure the poor have as good nutritional and cooking skills as the not-poor. As others have noted, eating fresh meats and veggies is expensive.

Posted September 15, 2008 12:58 PM

manda d.

I dont like mac and cheese because of how it gets after about 3 minutes, but i have to live with it because our family doesnt have much money.
after a while it tastes like chalk.. with cheese.. and more chalk. D:

Posted September 21, 2008 02:27 AM

Louloubell

Okie, I've had KD occasionally and have always enjoyed it. I got sick in October of last year 2008 with Jeuvinile Systemic (Idiopathetic)Rheumatoid Arthris. I'm 14 with a lot of stress. I alway's figured it was because of just that, stress, that i got sick. True. But studies I've found also show that majorly processed foods and drugs can lead to stress. I'm perfectly healthy now, but i know that while i was on prednizone (a type of sterroid) to stabalize me...my appetite was through the roof and I found myself eating junk food...junk food...and-oh wait...MORE junk food. Soon enough i gained 15 pounds and was depressed for over 6 months. The majority cause....KD! I ate it so much...because it was quick and satisfying. DONT EAT IT. Heres what has helped me through rough times...

10 things to avoid and do with ur diet.

1. As a general rule, if you don't recognize – or can't pronounce – the words on a label, don't buy it, or eat it. Opt instead for the real thing!

2. Avoid products containing

Nitrates and nitrites (including sodium nitrite)
Sulfites (including metabisulfites)
Sulfur dioxide
Benzoic acid (aka sodium benzoate)
BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)
BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole)
Coloring
Coal tar
Propylene glycol
MSG (monosodium glutamate)
Refined or bleached flour (i.e. whitened using chloride oxide)
3. Don't eat partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated trans fats

4. Don't eat products containing sugar substitutes such as saccharine and aspartame.

5. Avoid products with a long shelf life – the better they do on the shelf, the worse they are for your body.

6. Avoid products that have been enriched. They have been completely devitalized during processing.

7. Avoid food that has been genetically modified or engineered. Nearly all processed food contains GMOs.

8. Avoid products made with ingredients euphemistically described as "natural flavoring" or "natural coloring."

9. Avoid products with added sugar – watch for words with "-ose" endings such as glucose.

10. Incorporate a multi-vitamin into your health regimen.

Posted October 20, 2008 11:07 AM

RoMe

U.K.

This is just my humble opinion ok!: there are times when nothing other than Kraft 'Cheesey pasta' (aka KD) will do. Just put a tin of diced up spam in it and enjoy. a great big bowl of stodge which has about 9 million gazillion calories, fat points and additives. you can make alternatives if you wish, with all the best ingredients but Kraft got it right years ago :-)

Posted February 8, 2009 12:09 PM

Thomas

I like Kraft Dinner. It tastes good. The nutrition is probably questionable, but so are a lot of other things. Growing up, we had KD on occasion. Economically our family could have what we wanted to eat, whenever. I still enjoy it. Our family used the original Dinner, and then baked it in ramekins with seasoned bread crumbs. It was served with vegtables, and usually fresh fruit.

Posted March 5, 2009 07:45 AM

Jay

Ramen, KD, Rice. Even in good times, they're great, inexpensive staples that can help stretch the meat and veggie supply.

I've been in deep debt repayment mode, and even though I tend to throw the cheese powder in the garbage as fast as I can, the macaroni goes great with some browned hamburger, a can of mushroom soup, and canned tomatoes.

Posted March 23, 2009 07:26 AM

anon

Hi I googled this article while my KD was cooking. I could afford a nicer meal I supposed but sometimes, I just like the taste that that I'll be full of carbs. It's like pasta candy.

Posted April 27, 2009 12:07 AM

Ottawa

Not a huge fan of KD,
if I was lower income and on a limited budget-which i am at the moment,you can buy fresh food for much cheaper.

I think most people,not only "poor" could use some grocery shopping lessons.
I find KD is very expensive compared to a plain bag of pasts and some vegetables.
You can always find a 1-2lb bag of pasta for $1-2 compared to a tiny KD box.
Add some seasnings (ginger and garlic are cheap,tin tomato sauce cheap also...)or even just pepper and salt on pasta is tastier than KD.

I eat pasta all the time and it is cheaper than KD if you know how to cook.

Posted July 23, 2009 12:35 AM

izzy

toronto

I grew up on KD only because of convenience and price. It was often found at the food bank my family frequented and because my single father worked long hours, my two younger siblings and I grew up on it. I guess it's programmed in my mind because of my childhood, but I can't even look at the stuff anymore. Not to mention knowing what's inside it.

Posted August 25, 2009 02:42 PM

Cristina

Ontario

KD was a rare treat in my house... and we topped it with either sugar or sour cream OMG with sugar it was so good! I haven't had it over 10 years I think... but after reading this article i want some! So bad for you.. but I have nice memories of me and my bro eating it.

Posted October 1, 2009 02:42 PM

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Amber Hildebrandt Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.

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Canadian Olympic bronze medallist Mark McMorris won the gold medal in the men's slopestyle snowboard event Sunday at the Winter X Games.
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John Tavares of the New York Islanders matched a record with four goals, and Team Toews beat Team Foligno 17-12 on Sunday night in the highest-scoring NHL All-Star game.
Canadian Trail Taylor Henrich makes ski jumping history video
Taylor Henrich of Calgary became the first Canadian woman to claim a World Cup ski jumping medal with a third-place finish Sunday at Oberstdorf, Germany. Regina's Mark McMorris made his mark again, winning the X games slopestyle crown.
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