National Donut Day Has Humble Beginnings

Published 06/05 2014 10:17PM

Updated 06/05 2014 10:18PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNN) - The donut has had a bit of a renaissance lately, rising in the pastry ranks with small shops like Washington’s Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken making the sweet treat a little more well-rounded.

For co-owners Jeff Halpern and Elliot Spaisman, it’s about fresh ingredients, seasonal twists and donuts crafted with care, every day.

“We kind of noticed over the last maybe five, six, seven years, donuts lost their way a little bit compared to the cupcake and we felt that they needed a platform or a stage to compete with those,” said Halpern.

But this year, and every year, the donut actually has a special day, the first Friday in June.

National Donut Day goes back to some tough times, and it started with the Salvation Army in Chicago in 1938.

The Salvation Army was having a tremendous amount of need to meet the needs of the people who were being affected by the Depression.

Ron Busroe, secretary for community relations and development at the Salvation Army, says the organization chose donuts to help raise funds during the Great Depression because of their role in boosting troop morale during World War I.

With rations of flour, lard and sugar, young volunteers served simple donuts to war-weary soldiers, working close to the battlefields and, in many cases, improvising.

“When they didn’t have anything else they would actually take one of the soldiers’ helmets and they could cook maybe six donuts at a time in one of these helmets,” Busroe said.

The kitchen at Astro Doughnuts has a few more tools, but behind its National Donut Day special, a strawberry chocolate confection, is a similar premise to honor the day’s true spirit.

“We’re making a couple hundred of those and all 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the Fisher House Foundation which helps Wounded Warriors,” Spaisman said.

“The reason behind the original Donut Day is to help remember those in need, and a sweet treat can make life a little bit easier for everybody,” Busroe said.

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