Girl eating lunchChair of the Senate Agriculture Committee Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) called on the U.S. Senate yesterday to pass the stalled renewal of the National School Lunch Program known as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Time is running out for the bill, with precious few working Senate days left before the election.

Sadly, Lincoln, like First Lady Michelle Obama, can’t do anything more than urge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring the bill to the floor. And if he doesn’t, the whole legislative process has to start over again when the new Congress convenes in January.

Is there any hope left? Or has time run out for school food?

According to my sources, Reid has indeed kept hope alive. Last night, he began the process of finally bringing the bill up for passage in the Senate. Unfortunately, the GOP seems intent on requiring full votes for every intermediate legislative step — and there are many, so each one can take days.

If these delays continue, success for school lunch may require a willingness by Senate Democrats to pass major legislation during the lame duck session, i.e. after the November election, but before the holiday recess, by which point some senators, like Lincoln for example, will likely have lost their re-election campaigns.

Still, Reid’s latest move counts as progress.

Meanwhile, the House still hasn’t figured out how to pay for the funding increases in its version of the bill — it spends $3.5 billion more over 10 years than the Senate version does. Since Democrats actually follow rules that require them to pay for new spending programs, they must identify a funding source before bringing the bill up for a final vote.

School food remains alive but in critical condition. Now might be a good time to call your representative and urge him or her to act on the bill.