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Ten Questions with Niaz Dorry

This originally appeared on Food Tank's website April 16, 2016.

Food Tank had the chance to speak with Niaz Dorry, the Coordinating Director of the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, who will be speaking at this year's Food Tank Summit in Washington, D.C.Niaz Dorry (L) with CT Senator Marilyn Moore & the 2016 New England Food Summit

Food Tank: What inspired you to get involved in food and agriculture?

Niaz Dorry (ND): It was the omission of seafood from food system conversations that really sparked my involvement. Considering it’s the only thing we eat with the word “food” in it and that our rationale for killing marine animals is to feed people, I found it puzzling that neither the food world nor the fishing world considered seafood worthy of inclusion in food system discussions. It has become increasingly important to me to since we are seeing the strategies that undermined our land-based food system spreading to the sea. We have a unique opportunity to stop the bad stuff while applying some of the good lessons and solutions from land food to sea food. 

FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?

ND: Redefining “efficiency.” High volume, low value, single species animal or crop production have defined success for too long. Shifting our thinking toward low volume, high value production systems focused on the diversity that nature provides is a huge opportunity that can yield so much ecological, social, and economic value. 

FT: What innovations in agriculture and the food system are you most excited about? 

ND: Since I work on fisheries issues, the innovations around values-based fishing operations are really exciting to me. We’re rethinking what value means to us, away from money and towards one's judgment of what is important in life. This is huge and is leading to a major sea change.

FT: Can you share a story about a food hero that inspired you? 

ND: There are way too many of them to pick one. 

FT: What drives you every day to fight for the bettering of our food system?

ND: That we have the potential to live harmoniously with each other on this planet where no one has to struggle for basic needs such as food. I can visualize it, and as a visual thinker, if I can see it, I know it is possible.

FT: What’s the biggest problem within the food system our parents and grandparents didn't have to deal with? 

ND: Our ancestors didn’t have to deal with what I call “unidentified food objects”—things that are a shadow of what they are supposed to be, void of nutrients, connections, and values, and are branded as “food” when they don’t really deserve that title.  

FT: What’s the first, most pressing issue you’d like to see solved within the food system? 

ND: Equity and integrity in the entire food chain. 

FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference? 

ND: Try to eat in season (yes, even fish have seasons), and eat food that still looks like what it’s supposed to be. 

FT: What’s one issue within the food system you’d like to see completely solved for the next generation?

ND: Farmers, fishermen, food workers, and others who work in our entire food chain should not be struggling to feed themselves and/or their own families.

FT: What agricultural issue would you like for the next president of the United States to immediately address?

ND: Fair prices for community-based fishermen and family farmers, and fair wages for all food workers. Too many of our fishermen and farmers are working in the red. The current narrative around subsidies makes it sound like they are reaping wealth off tax payers’ backs when in reality, our current food system is straining their backs. Many of them can barely make ends meet. They deserve to be paid their cost of production, and all those whose hands touch our food deserve lives with dignity.