From the moment it was clear that Barack Obama was going to be president, people who have dedicated their lives to changing how America eats thought their time had come. They wrote letters to the White House.

Ruth Reichl, the editor of Gourmet magazine, wants a new high-profile White House chef who cooks delicious local food. (Her hopes were dashed when Obama renewed the appointment of Cristeta Comerford, who has been executive chef since 2005 and was the first woman to hold the position.) Wayne Pacelle, head of the Humane Society of the United States, wants policies requiring better treatment for farm animals.

A coalition of community-based groups called the U.S. Working Group on the Food Crisis wrote to Obama asking him to make hunger and the global food crisis a top priority. Their optimism is based on Obama's promise to abolish childhood hunger by 2015.

Parents want better public-school lunches. Consumer groups are dreaming of a new, stronger food safety system. Nutrition reformers want prisoners to be fed less soy. And a farmer in Maine is asking the president-elect to plow under an acre of White House lawn for an organic vegetable garden.

Although Obama has proposed changes in the nation's farm and rural policies and emphasizes the connection between diet and health, there is nothing to indicate he has a special interest in a radical makeover of the way food is grown and sold.

Still, the dream endures. To advocates who have watched scattered calls for changes in food policy gather political and popular momentum, Obama looks like their kind of president.

Not only does he seem to possess a more sophisticated palate than some of his recent predecessors, but he will also take office in an age when organic food is mainstream, cooking competitions are among the top-rated TV shows and books calling for an overhaul in the American food system are bestsellers.

"People are so interested in a massive change in food and agriculture that they are dining out on hope now. That is like the main ingredient," said Eddie Gehman Kohan.

He is a blogger from Los Angeles who started to document just about any conceivable link between Obama and food, whether it is a debate on agriculture policy or an image of Obama rendered in tiny cupcakes.

"He is the first president who might actually have eaten organic food, or at least eats out at great restaurants," Gehman Kohan said.

What's on his mind?

Still, no one is sure just how serious Obama really is about the politics of food. So like mystery buffs studying the book jacket of "The Da Vinci Code," interested eaters dissect every aspect of his life as it relates to the plate.

They look for clues in the lunch menus at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, where his two daughters eat items like herbes de Provence pita, local pears and organic chopped salad, served with unbleached napkins in a cafeteria with a serious recycling program.

They point out that when Obama was a child, his family used food stamps, and that in interviews he has referred to his appreciation of the philosophy put forth by Michael Pollan, the reform-minded food writer.

They note with approval that Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff, belongs to a synagogue that runs a community supported agriculture program and that his social secretary, Desiree Rogers, is from the food-obsessed city of New Orleans.

They also see promising signs in Obama's fondness for some of Chicago's better restaurants, such as Spiaggia and Topolobampo.

As for Michelle Obama, she has said in interviews that she tries to buy organic food and watches the amount of high-fructose corn syrup in her family's diet.

And, as she confided on "The View" on ABC, "We're bacon people."

Add it all up and Obama looks like the first foodie president since Thomas Jefferson.

The Obamas are a different kind of First Family, said David Kamp, who traced the history of the modern gourmet-food movement in his book "The United States of Arugula."

"This time we have a Democrat in office that seems to live the dream and speak the language of both food progressivism and personal fitness," Kamp said.