National Whatever Days are usually just a fun excuse to eat or drink a lot of something, and then jam up your friends' Instagram feeds with photos of you solemnly observing National Tequila Day. But, today, National Doughnut Day, is an exception to the silly rule. True, it's still a totally good reason to get yourself a nice cream-filled treat, but there's a bigger story here — and, it's a great one.
During WWI, women volunteers with the Salvation Army served coffee and doughnuts to soldiers both on and off the battlefields of France. The soldiers were exceptionally grateful for the doughnut deliveries, a comforting reminder of home — along with other services the volunteers offered (mailing letters, mending clothes). Though they were difficult to make in such conditions, the doughnuts were so popular that two SA volunteers, Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance, figured out how to fry them up in a helmet.
The "Doughnut Dollies," as they came to be known, were soon recognized as vital morale-boosters during the war, even serving soldiers in the trenches. The tradition was so impactful that it would continue in WWII and the Vietnam War. It may sound like merely a frivolous comfort, but consider that these young men were wholly separated from their families and entrenched in one of longest and most lethal wars in human history. After spending months or years at war in a foreign country, a consistent reminder of home — even a familiar snack — was no small comfort.
National Doughnut Day officially began in 1938. The Chicago branch of The Salvation Army initiated it as a fundraiser during the Great Depression, and as a way of honoring these women and their efforts in the war. Today, "the doughnut has become synonymous with The Salvation Army’s social services," says Communications Manager Megan Gandee, "and continues to be a comfort food served by The Salvation Army to those in need during times of disaster."
So, enjoy those chocolate-glazed treats today. Because, perhaps more than any other food, they are meant to be enjoyed.