A Northside Hospital Gwinnett nurse gushed as she was handed a tin bowl with a white cardboard lid in front of a food truck in the hospital’s parking lot around noon on Friday.

Inside the container was warm beef barbacoa over rice pilaf with sour cream. It was a gift from the Atlanta Braves and Gwinnett Stripers, as a way to say thank you to employees at the hospital for their work during the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic.

There was no doubt that the meal was appreciated by at least that gushing nurse.

“Thank you, God bless and stay safe,” she said with a hint of joy in her voice and she spoke through a face mask.

The food delivery at Northside Gwinnett was part of the Braves’ Home Plate Project, an effort to provide food to the community and health care workers during the pandemic.

Braves Growing the Game Coordinator Nikki Green said the team is handing out food that would have been served at the team’s home games at Truist Park to the community. The head chef at Truist Park approached the team about doing something to feed the community after the opening of the 2020 season was delayed because of the pandemic.

“Our head chef came to us and was like ‘I have all of this food,’ and we wanted to make sure we’re utilizing it and helping anybody who was dealing with food insecurity, and really being able to serve the Atlanta community as well as thanking the hospitals and frontline workers,” Green said.

That became the Home Plate Project.

Through the project, there are distribution events at Truist Park during the week to help community groups, but it also includes the team hitting the road on Fridays and serving 500 lunches to workers at hospitals in the region.

“Every Friday for the last two months we’ve either gone to a hospital or an out-of-market location,” Green said. “We’ve done the Shepherd Center, last week we went to Nashville, we’re here (at Northside Gwinnett) and next week we’re going to (Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in) Albany, and then Rome.”

On Friday, they came to Lawrenceville to serve 500 meals out of their food truck.

It shouldn’t be too surprising that the Braves came to Gwinnett as part of this effort, however. The county is home to the Braves Triple-A minor league team, the Gwinnett Stripers, after all. The Braves officials worked with their Gwinnett counterparts to find a way to help the Gwinnett community.

The Stripers decided to serve employees at Northside Gwinnett, a longtime partner of the minor league team, going back to when the hospital was Gwinnett Medical Center.

“(There were) a couple of reasons,” Stripers General Manager Adam English said. “One, they’re one of the hospitals treating the most COVID-19 patients in the area so we knew they were highly impacted by this pandemic and, secondly, they’re great partners of ours and we always like to support our partners whenever we can so it was great that I could partner with the Braves Foundation — which is our giving arm in Gwinnett as well.”

In addition to the food truck brought out to the hospital by the Braves, the team also enlisted the help of Chick-fil-A to serve additional meals to hospital workers.

“Because of the size of the truck, we can only serve 500 meals off this,” English said. “We were able to get our great partner, Chick-fil-A, to chip in an additional 300 meals so we could serve everybody in need today. It’s important for the Stripers, during this pandemic, we wanted to positively impact our community as much as we could and this was one of the ways that we could.”

The lunches are not the only step the Stripers have taken to help the community during the pandemic. English said the team is also making a $10,000 donation to the Gwinnett Cares effort, which is set up to help with a variety of community needs.

Northside officials said they were pleased to see the Braves and Stripers swing by the hospital and show support for the hospital’s employees during the pandemic.

“The outpouring of support from our community and our partners has been amazing, and this one was especially delicious,” Northside Hospital Gwinnett Manager of Patient Relations Allison Hamlet said. “It means more to our staff than words can ever express. Thank you.”

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I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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