The concept of eating plant-based whole foods is catching on and becoming more widespread as more people learn about it.

There are a number of local groups following the whole foods, plant-based way of eating. And there are some groups that have been around for a while now and focus on specific aspects of plant-based eating.

The Eat Without Meat group at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Lowcountry, 110 Malphrus Rd., is one of those groups. They have been one of the pioneers in holding potlucks of vegetarian meals for local residents.

Hilton Head Island resident Benedicte Gadron is in charge of the vegetarian potluck, which is usually held on the third Saturday of the month in the church lobby.

Each month tends to have a theme, and some months have included going to other locations. For example, the group recently met at Delisheee Yo on Hilton Head in October. Instead of a potluck, they ate there and learned about gardening.

During the holidays, a festive holiday potluck was planned and people brought their favorite holiday dishes.

This past month’s theme was based on a holiday in Macedonia known as the “Old New Year” and celebrated late on Jan. 14. During that time, people gather outside of their houses in the center of their neighborhoods where they build huge bonfires. They eat and drink together and play music.

Based on that concept, Gadron came up with the idea for a Slavic potluck. This built cultural awareness among the attendees as they dug through their recipes for dishes from Russia, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Ukraine, and then converted those recipes into vegetarian wonders.

The meal is open to anyone, whether vegetarian or not. “The whole purpose of our group is to attract people who are not always familiar with this kind of diet, so they can get inspired,” Gadron said. “The best advocate for a meatless diet is when people are enjoying a good meal in each other’s company.”

The group consists of a diverse population of participants. Sometimes it includes a discussion or an invited guest speaker or a movie.

To join the potluck, just make a vegetarian dish and show up at 5:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church on the third Saturday of the month. For more information, call Gadron at 843-683-2402 or email

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