To enhance sustainability, the food system requires significant shifts in the production, processing and supply of food. Ideally, a sustainable food system should operate, not only to protect the biosphere, but also to provide nutritious, high quality food, and to support social values, an equitable economy, and human and animal health. It should also be governed responsibly within a supportive policy environment. Implementing these shifts is a task of immense scale; but citizen participation/engagement has the potential to help make sustainability a reality through distributed learning, dynamic sensing, and knowledge generation. Technological advancements in sensing and data processing have enabled new forms of citizen participation in research. When food system research is embedded within society it can help us to understand which changes towards sustainability work and which do not. Indeed, citizen engagement in food systems research has the potential to help bring citizens on side, supporting the growth of a food culture of resilience and of sustainable practises (including dietary change). This commentary provides examples of how existing research and alternative food production systems and agroecological practises may provide possible frameworks for citizen participation in food system studies. We highlight potential future food and citizen science approaches. Widening citizen participation and encouraging the involvement of other food system actors, including those in local, national and international governance, is essential to capture the full potential of citizen science in enabling transition to a sustainable food system. For the research community citizen science offers engagement and empowerment of wider communities with science; collecting and analysing data; and creating viable solutions to food system and diet issues.