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 they had found their St. Nicholas.

It wasn’t long before the letters to Santa began piling up.

Ruth Reichl, the editor of Gourmet magazine, wants a new high-profile White House chef who cooks delicious local food. Wayne Pacelle, head of the Humane Society of the United States, wants policies requiring better treatment for farm animals.

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 Mr. 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, Mr. 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 best sellers.

“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, a blogger from Los Angeles who started to document just about any conceivable link between Mr. Obama and food, whether it is a debate on agriculture policy or an image of Mr. 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,” Ms. Gehman Kohan said.

Still, no one is sure just how serious Mr. 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 will be eating 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 Mr. 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.

…Last week, Mr. Obama appointed Tom Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa, which grows much of the nation’s corn and soybeans. Mr. Vilsack has talked about reducing subsidies to some megafarms, supports better treatment of farm animals and wants healthier food in schools. But his selection drew criticism because he is a big fan of alternative fuels like corn-based ethanol and is a supporter of biotechnology, both anathema to people who want to shift government support from large-scale agricultural interests to smaller farms growing food that takes a more direct path to the table.

“Americans were promised ‘change,’ not just another shill for Monsanto and corporate agribusiness,” wrote Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association, which has promised to fight the confirmation of Mr. Vilsack. Mr. Willis and Mr. Murphy immediately shook off the blow and sent out a new petition to have someone more like-minded placed as undersecretary…

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