The University of Winnipeg



Destination Steinbach: food history truck ready to roll

Dr Janis Thiessen and Sarah Story photo by Kimberley Moore

Dr Janis Thiessen and Sarah Story photo by Kimberley Moore

People can register now to share food stories, recipes

Dr. Janis Thiessen is hitting the road to ask Manitobans in the Steinbach area to share their food histories and family recipes and she’s inviting people to register now to participate. Thiessen, Associate Professor (History) and Associate Director of the Oral History Centre at The University of Winnipeg, is rolling into town in her newly branded and outfitted Manitoba Food History Truck, which will be parked at the Mennonite Heritage Village (231 Highway 12 North, Steinbach) from Sunday, June 17 to Saturday, July 7, 2018.

Manitobans will be invited to hop on board the truck to cook a dish that is meaningful to them, while research team members interview them about their lives. Research team members and students will use this innovative approach to conduct oral histories on Manitoba food history, which will be shared with the public via a podcast series, pop-up exhibits and events, a website of digital stories and maps, and a food truck cookbook.

The goal of the Manitoba Food History Project is to produce a comprehensive history of food manufacturing, production, retailing, and consumption in the province of Manitoba from 1870 to the present day. The two driving questions behind the research are: “How has food been  produced, sold, and consumed in Manitoba?” and “How has this changed over time?”

Interested participants should sign up here.

“I’m grateful to the project funders, the University of Winnipeg’s Research Office, the Oral History Centre, and Diversity Foods, who make this kind of public history possible,” says Thiessen. “They allow me to take on unusual and exciting ventures like this food history truck.”  

The Food History Truck will be traveling throughout Manitoba over the next three to four years, researching the history of the production, retailing, and consumption of food in the province.

Partnering with Diversity Food Services, select recipes gathered during the project will become nutritious food snacks to share with folks along the way. Through a QR code, people eating these snacks will be able to trace where the ingredients are grown, and link to the family story and recipe on the website.

Food truck photo by Kimberley Moore

Food truck photo by Kimberley Moore

The Food History Project is coordinated by UWinnipeg alumna Sarah Story; project collaborators are UWinnipeg Oral History Centre adjunct professors Kimberley Moore and Kent Davies.


Dr. Janis Thiessen received a four-year, $239,000 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight grant to research a comprehensive food history of the
province. The first four years of the project will focus on three geographic areas:  1) Steinbach 2) Winnipeg 3) the Parkland region. The research approach is unique. The majority of work in food history draws almost exclusively on written sources; this project’s approach is to use oral history interviews conducted on the Manitoba Food History Truck.

The Manitoba Food History Truck (owned and operated in partnership with Diversity Foods) will travel to these three regions of Manitoba so that the project team –– including food history students and research assistants –– can conduct life-story interviews with Manitobans while they cook local, historical, meaningful recipes aboard the truck. These oral histories will help to inform people’s understanding of the business, labour, ethnic, Indigenous, and local histories within the province of Manitoba.

Throughout the project, research team members will be working toward producing a variety of research outcomes that will provide opportunities for students, meaningful contributions to scholarly research in food history, and engaging and accessible representations of Manitoba’s food history.  This will include a collection of oral history sources (to be archived at the Oral History Centre at the University of Winnipeg), experiential learning courses in business history & food history at The University of Winnipeg, digital stories and vignettes of Manitoba food history, pop-up exhibits and public events, a podcast series on Manitoba food history, and a Manitoba Food History Truck cookbook.

Thiessen also launched a new book recently called “Snacks, A Canadian Food History.”

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Diane Poulin, Senior Communications Specialist, The University of Winnipeg

P: 204.988.7135, E: