She calls it her “booster shot.” Even after eating whole foods, plant-based for the past 20 years, Susan Barnwell of Hilton Head Island still finds it helps her to teach others how to be plant-based eaters as well.

“It helps me to think and to remember what it is I am doing,” she said.

Five years ago, she started doing movie days in her home. The movie days are a showing of documentaries that focus on the whole foods, plant-based way of eating. It could be “Forks Over Knives” one month or “PlantPure Nation” or “Healing Cancer from the Inside Out” another month.

The movie is followed by a meal, either lunch or dinner. Of course, the meal is entirely plant-based and consists of whole foods as grown in nature.

The movie days started somewhat informally, with people asking Barnwell about what she was doing to stay so healthy. She said that many people have remarked how healthy she looks, and she knows that how she eats is a big part of that.

So she began to show the documentaries to people who asked, and then she would serve them a meal to show how easily and tastily it could be done. Over the years, it grew from just friends attending to include anyone who was interested.

She’s had attendees from as far as Savannah to the south and River Hills to the north.

The menu for the meals changes with each movie day, and the menu is based on a number of factors, not the least of which is what’s fresh from the Barnwells’ one and a half acre garden.

Her husband, Tom, a 20-year cancer survivor and also a follower of the whole foods, plant-based way of eating, tends the garden, which is operated year round.

Susan grew up in Iowa, and her family always grew their own fruits and vegetables, so she said it is natural for them to continue doing that now.

In hosting the meals, there are both newcomers and regulars who attend. For regulars, she wants them to see the variety of foods available for plant-based eating, and for newcomers, she wants them to come away from the experience realizing they can eat plant-based without “being like a monk in a monastery.”

The next movie day is Aug. 25, and there is a maximum of eight people for the lunch movie and eight people for the dinner movie. RSVP is required at least 72 hours before to barnwellness@

J Lanning Smith is a local freelance writer focused on the whole foods, plant-based lifestyle.