Whether you spell it doughnut or donut, before you run out and grab that circular, culinary bit of pastry goodness—which pairs quite well with your cup o’ joe—learn about the origins of National Doughnut (or Donut) Day. Always celebrated on the first Friday of June, the day set aside to appreciate the tasty treat that brings all the cops to the yard is not just a gimic!
The idea for National Doughnut Day began on the battlefields of France during World War I.
Soon after the U.S. entrance into the war in 1917, The Salvation Army sent a fact-finding mission to France. The mission concluded that the needs of U.S. enlisted men could be met by mobile canteens or “huts” that could serve baked goods, provide writing supplies and stamps, and provide a clothes-mending service.
So, about 250 Salvation Army volunteers went to France to serve coffee and doughnuts to soldiers in the trenches. Rations were poor so the doughnut idea was conceived as a means of bringing the soldiers cheer. At the start the volunteers could only serve 150 doughnuts, but the next day that number doubled.
The doughnuts were an instant hit, and soon many soldiers were visiting The Salvation Army canteens. As demand for the comforts of home grew, the “Doughnut Lassies,” as they were called, fried up to 9,000 doughnuts daily which included deliveries to troops along the front lines. The Salvation Army would go on to continue this tradition during World War II and in Vietnam.
The Salvation Army established the first National Doughnut Day in 1938 in Chicago, as a way to raise money for social service ministries during the Depression and to honor the work of the ‘Doughnut Lassies’ of World War I. Soon, this fundraising tradition spread and is still continued to this day.
Updated for 2017:
This year marks 100 years since the first Donut Lassies began serving doughnuts to soldiers. Check out this video for a brief history of National Doughnut Day!