Jody Bodde, left, and Donna Kneib, both volunteers at the Second Harvest Community Food Bank, prep the Fresh Start pantry Monday afternoon. New legislation will allow convicted drug felons to obtain food stamps in the near future.

Convicted drug felons could get food stamps if Gov. Jay Nixon signs a bill on his desk.

It’s something Tamara Grubb, Second Harvest Community Food Bank director of operations, said is a long time coming.

“We turn away folks every week,” she said. “We let them know that because of prior convictions, they’re not able to access SNAP. It’s very prevalent. It happens every day at our offices.”

A bill passed by the Missouri House and Senate would allow drug felons to qualify for food stamps under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The bill comes with conditions.

Recipients must complete a substance abuse program, unless the state determined no such program was necessary.

It would not apply to people with three or more felony drug convictions.

“So it does lift that lifetime ban, but there are still some hurdles to get benefits,” Ms. Grubb said.

Those recipients could lose their benefits if they don’t make a purchase within Missouri every 90 days.

They could also be penalized for spending public assistance on tobacco, alcohol or lottery tickets.

While happy with the passage, the Missouri Food Bank Association says it would increase the demand for food and many banks are already providing that service at their capacity.

But Ms. Grubb says they can take on the challenge.

“For them to have the ability, there are some hurdles, it’s not automatic, but now it gives them the opportunity, if they’re doing the right things, and on the right track, the opportunity to get access to a program that’s needed for so many families in Missouri,” she said.

The Buchanan County Prosecutor’s office estimates that hundreds of convicted drug offenders live in Buchanan County, with at least 200 new convictions a year.

Greg Miller can be reached at greg.miller@knpn.com. Follow him on Twitter: @KNPNGregMiller.