Kids Like It Hot and Spicy. No, Not That, You Perv.

Spicy foods, much like bikinis and personal cell phones, aren't just for adults anymore.

Young children are increasingly demanding school lunches dabbed with jalapenos and chipotle peppers; dishes on display at the School Nutrition Association conference in town this week included green chili pork and curried chicken.

"It's a crazy thing, I know," says Helen Corey, vice-president of MJM Marketing. "When I first heard 'hot and spicy', I said, 'Oh no, I make things for children."

But, Corey says, children's tastes have changed -- or at least been shaped by blazing red convenience store snacks and piquant fast-food salsas. Immigration patterns may also have helped put spice in children's diets, since a growing number of students come from Asian or Latin households that make liberal use of chiles.

Corey developed "lava bites," whole-grain black bean crackers, to satisfy students' cravings for heat.

"The kids just love it," she reports.