The Hidden History of National Donut Day

American troops first encountered donuts on battlegrounds in France.

By Joy DiazJune 2, 2018 11:14 am| ,

Jan Gunter works with the Salvation Army – an organization that was, surprisingly, there at the beginning of our nation’s love for donuts.

National Donut Day isn’t just a celebration of the doughy confection. It’s actually deeply rooted in American history.

The story begins during World War I, when the Salvation Army sent men and women to the front lines to support American troops abroad.

“And in France the donut was popular,” Gunter says, “and the women immediately realized that one of the things they needed to do was to feed these men on the front line and so they began to try to figure out how they could make donuts. And they initially did this in helmets, because that’s what they had. Eventually they were actually making thousands of donuts a day and serving donuts and coffee in battle.”

In the middle of war and trauma, the donuts were more than just treats.

“If I come off the front lines, and I am scared, and I’ve seen people dying that day, and I may have, you know, shot a gun that killed somebody that day, then somebody gives me a donut, and it tastes like heaven,” Gunter says.

Gunter says, “There’s got to be some brain-body connection, where there’s a person here who cared enough to be out here and provide food to me.”

After the war, the troops and volunteers brought the recipe back to the U.S. In 1938, the Salvation Army started National Donut Day as a way to commemorate that history of service.

Written by Rachel Taube.