A Southern California congregation is applying an elaborate screening process to its high-volume food-distribution operation, making National Food Foundation one of the most innovative food banks in the country.

Lay leaders Lou and Lucy Gordiani started the project five years ago in the basement of Covina Assembly of God, a congregation of 1,800. National Food Foundation is now housed in a 22,000-square-foot donated warehouse where nearly $2 million worth of food, clothes, and toiletries are stored. As the regional hub for 18 other churches and organizations, the ministry feeds 525 families each month.

To guard against fraud, the Gordianis developed a strict identification system. Applicants are interviewed and, if accepted into the program, given a laminated card bearing their photograph. Only the pictured person can receive food. One Saturday a month the recipient attends a chapel service, then goes through the warehouse with a shopping cart, leaving with hundreds of dollars' worth of groceries. Food is distributed according to family size.

Jalene Enterrios, a single mother, was new to Covina Assembly when she lost her job nearly two years ago. A native of Puerto Rico, she had not been in the country long enough to qualify for government unemployment benefits. "It was quite scary," she says. "I was a fairly new Christian and just learning to lean on God for provision."

Enterrios received food for eight months, then began volunteering. She now speaks in the chapel services. "It's truly amazing how the ministry touches people," she says. "Volunteers minister more than just with food."

At least 300 people have become Christians through the ministry, Lucy Gordiani says. The food bank operates on a very modest budget. All food and ...

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