The original idea to collect products – not for sale, but still suitable for consumption or use – and sell them to people in need at a symbolic price was first developed in the United States of America in the 1970’s.


In the 1990’s, the idea was adopted at the private initiative of an Austrian group that recognized the scale of waste in the food sector in the midst of so much poverty and suffering. Together they founded a non-profit association and their first SOMA (social market) was opened in Linz on 9th September 1999. The concept has been growing ever since, and today 34 SOMAs operate in Austria.


In 2009, another Austrian initiative took the concept to Romania. Dr. h.c. Barbara Wiebke-Schöfnagel, the Social Attaché at the Austrian Embassy in Bucharest, and the Katharina Turnauer Private Foundation met in Bucharest to discuss the idea of opening a social market for people in need. Katharina Turnauer secured the support of the ERSTE Foundation, and together they developed the concept and began the implementation. The Association ‘SOMARO – Magazinul Social’ was founded in 2010, and made the concept a reality. The success of this project has encouraged us to extend this valuable idea and to open more SOMARO markets throughout Romania.


After a comprehensive evaluation and preparation phase the first SOMARO store was inaugurated on 10th October 2010 at Piata Matache in Bucharest. To date more than 700 individuals have received a SOMARO card and can therefore benefit from the store’s highly discounted prices.
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About one year later, on 29th November 2011, the second SOMARO store was opened in Satu Mare. Satu Mare county, located in the northwest of Romania, is one of the country’s most remote regions. Today, more than 160 clients can purchase convenience products at symbolic prices and can hence improve their difficult living conditions.


On 5th December 2012, the third SOMARO store was inaugurated in Sibiu. Initially, about 100 families in need are allowed to shop at the store. As soon as more suppliers can be found to sponsor the store in Sibiu, the number of beneficiaries will be increased.


SOMARO takes part in a focus group of the Romanian Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Development to discuss with representatives of state authorities, industrial associations, corporates, and other NGOs how to tackle the challenge of food waste in Romania. The group especially aims at proposing a more efficient legal framework to ensure that as little food as possible is wasted. This process is still ongoing. Here you can find more information.


In September 2015, SOMARO celebrated its fifth anniversary and can look back on five very successful years of operations. SOMARO is supplied by more than 70 companies, provides employment for seven people, and allows more than 1.000 customers and their families access to food and other everyday products. All this allows SOMARO to be financially independent and to cover all its running costs.


In February 2016, SOMARO had to close its store in Satu Mare.


In the future, we want to increase the number of SOMARO stores in Romania. To this end we are constantly looking for new partnerships and sponsors. Moreover, the implementation of so-called ‘mobile social supermarkets’, which can service under-supplied rural areas in particular, is a challenge that we are keen to approach, if the specific circumstances are appropriate.


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