The Thursday and Sunday food sections of the Washington Post have won first place in their circulation category in the national Vesta contest for excellence in reporting about food during 1979.

The award, given to Marian Burros and William Rice, is sponsored by th American Meat Institute, a trade association of the meat industry. The Vesta Award, a bronze statuette of Vesta, the mythical goddess of hearth and home, was presented at the opening of the 1979 Newspaper Editors Conference in Chicago last month.

Other winners were: Margaret Sheridan and Sandra Silfven of the Detroit News for color coverage of papers with a circulation over 500,000; Barbara Gibbs Ostmann of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for color coverage and Dorothee Polson, The Arizona Republic for black and white from amoung papers with a circulation between 200,000 and 500,000. Marjorie Rice of the Evening Tribune in San Diego won the color category for papers with a circulation between 50,000 and 200,000 and Harvey Steiman of the San Francisco Examiner won for black and white. Sarah Fritschner of the Morning Journal in Daytona Beach was awarded for color coverage for papers with a circulation under 50,000 and Patricia Teets of the Daily Reporter in Greenfield, Ind. won the black and white category.